The 3- and 4-year-olds marched into "big church" with giggles and flushed faces. Parents strained to find their children as the young performers began their first, much-rehearsed song.
One couple craned their heads to the left and right searching for their son, knowing Caleb would likely be at the back with his head down. With developmental delays and autism, he was not about to seek out the stares of hundreds of adults. Not seeing Caleb on stage, his anxious father hurried to Caleb's classroom to see what was wrong. To his relief, Caleb was safe.
Although the father was glad his son was all right, he questioned why Caleb was left in the classroom while all the other children were performing. "I was just told to be here with him, because didn't need to participate," the volunteer explained.
Unfortunately, scenarios like this play out every Sunday in churches across America. Whether it's a lack of participation in an event or inclusion into the life of the church, both children and parents are hurt when excluded due to a special need. This exclusion is not usually intentional, but is more a lack of awareness. It is imperative that senior pastors and children's leaders recognize the needs and feelings of families affected by disability in their churches and communities.
As the parent of a child with special needs, there is much you can do to help. Here are a few tips to assist with the communication.
So, how did things finally end with Caleb? Shortly after his non-performance, a ministry to children with special needs was launched in that church, ensuring that all children would be welcomed and included. Unbeknownst to Caleb, he was the inspiration for that ministry. How do I know? Because I was that anxious father!