Encouraging the Gifts of a Child With Special Needs

Small boy looking heavenward with hands extended out. Each parent extends a hand on either side of the child.
Ariel Pang

Even though my 10-year-old loves talking to God, she has never been called on to lead prayer at Sunday school. This might be because Sarah has Down syndrome and her speech can be difficult to comprehend. Yet my daughter is a prayer warrior who is devoted to praising God and interceding for others.

One Sunday morning when Sarah was with me in my adult Bible study, the teacher asked if anyone would like to close in prayer. Since no one else volunteered, Sarah marched to the front of the class.

"Dear God" and "Amen!" were clearly audible, but much of what came in between stayed between Sarah and the Lord. Still, the beauty, faith and purity of Sarah's prayer moved the group to tears.

"I wish I had faith like that," said one of the leaders. Another confessed: "I never knew someone like Sarah could be so close to God."

First Peter 4:10 (AMP) says, "Just as each one of you has received a special gift [a spiritual talent, an ability graciously given by God], employ it in serving one another." This is true for every person, including a child with special needs. Fanning the flames of your child's gifts can help him or her thrive and bless the body of Christ. As you pray about your child's gifts, consider these ideas:

Pay attention to your child's behavior at church.

Doing so can offer clues to his or her gifts. Does your son come alive during worship? Try playing songs of praise to develop that passion. Does your daughter notice when someone else appears down? Consider approaching that person with your daughter by your side to offer encouragement. Your child's sweet smile could be exactly what the Lord uses to lift that person's spirit and help your daughter's gift blossom.

Look for creative ways to put a gift into practice.

Andrew, a gifted artist, painted with his foot because cerebral palsy limited the use of his hands. Andrew's mom helped him bless others with his gift by making notecards from his artwork and using them to send words of encouragement to people in Andrew's life.

Gently speak up for your child.

When Brian showed an interest in lighting the candles during his church's Sunday services, his mother asked their pastor if Brian — who has autism — could have that opportunity. Brian showed that he could handle the task with skill and grace, and now his church family celebrates with him as he experiences the joy of serving the body of Christ.

Shauna Amick is the area director of Joni and Friends New England.
This article first appeared in the April/May 2016 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was originally titled "Encourage Their Gifts." If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Thriving Family, a marriage and parenting magazine published by Focus on the Family. Get Thriving Family delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.

Copyright © 2016 by Shauna Amick. Used by permission.