Helping Kids with Special Needs Engage with God

By Sara Ward
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Two women help a child with special needs with how to engage with God.
We can encourage the faith of a child with special needs by giving them opportunities to worship according to their abilities and preferences.

My son’s genetic disease contributed to the challenges he had participating in devotions and church. He couldn’t sing or talk, and he couldn’t attend Sunday school because of the risk of infection. But he loved his Bible picture book, and his eyes lit up whenever he saw the cover.

When it comes to parenting children with special needs, understanding how they engage with God means we can encourage their faith by giving them opportunities to worship according to their abilities and preferences. 

Adapting to Their Needs

Small adjustments can make a big difference in a child’s ability to connect with God. A child with hearing loss or visual impairment may need large pictures, a front-row seat or a sensory object to touch while sitting with you at church. For a child who enjoys music but is nonverbal, a Velcro hand strap with bells or a shaker allows her to actively participate in worship songs at home.

Creating an environment where your child thrives is also important for helping him engage with God. If your child likes movement during singing, provide space for dancing or waving streamers to songs. For some children, a quiet space fosters a better atmosphere for connection. If a child prefers silence, find ways to incorporate worship into a nature walk, pointing out the beauty of God’s creation and thanking Him for every good gift.

Bringing the Bible to Life

Adding sensory objects that are found in a Bible story can help make the story a more interactive experience for a child with special needs. When telling the story of Jesus walking on water, for example, you can use a phone app to play the sound of crashing waves. That can help children imagine the story more vividly.

Because scents and tastes can provide powerful connections in the brain, incorporating natural aromas and foods mentioned in Scripture can help bring stories to life. Enjoying fresh bread fits with the story of the Last Supper. And smelling perfume during the story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:36-38) can help our children experience the Bible
in a new way.

Even when we wonder whether what we’re doing is working, we can pray for God’s Word to penetrate
young hearts, knowing that He is the Author and Perfecter of our children’s faith.

© 2020 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

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