tips for taking a special needs child to church

Another topic that many families ask us about is attending church. I know many families who were avid church attendees but they’ve stopped going, because of the behavior issues with their family members or their kids with special needs. This is not always a great option, so I’ve come up with some ideas to help you out.

First of all, it’s very important to understand what your child’s abilities/disabilities or challenges are, to be able to find the best environment where those issues can be addressed.


1. Special Needs Ministries.


In today’s world of church, there are many churches that offer special needs ministries if you have a child with a significant disability. This can be for children with physical disabilities that have mobility issues, children with cognitive disabilities, and also children on the autism spectrum. Many churches will design their special needs ministries with gradations in them. A gradation can help you progress through the process as you become more familiar with the people there. (But not all of them do, so that’s an important question for you to ask when you’re calling around for information.)

Many churches with special needs ministries have a self-contained classroom so that the child doesn’t have to deal with some of the sensory challenges that exist within the church environment. Worship in, the church can be very loud, and a lot of our kids have auditory issues. In a self-contained room, the environment can be monitored and adjusted.


2. Shadows.


Another thing some churches offer is shadows. These are people who will go into the regular Sunday School classes with the children. Sometimes it’s an adult shadow, sometimes it’s a peer-to-peer situation.


3. Worship at home if you need to.


If you find that a church environment is just not working at all, that’s why we have church on TV and on the internet! Many churches televise their services on YouTube—my church does this. The churches really want people out in the community to be able to engage in worship, so they make it as accessible as possible. This is becoming a very popular option. So if you know it’s just not going to be possible for you to attend, watching a worship service at home is an option.


4. Vacation Bible School.


Also, don’t forget that many churches offer special needs Vacation Bible Schools! This is often a great option for our kids!

As you can see, you have several options to work with. But I want to remind you that it’s important to challenge your child to learn to adapt to the culture that we’re in. Sometimes working with your church, or working with your therapist here, can help your child to function in what we call the “least restrictive environment,” where they can be around their peers as much as possible. The thing I love about the church community is it’s a great opportunity for your kiddos to engage with their peers. A lot of our kids do not have friends who come over and play, and so church environments naturally lend themselves to peer engagement.

So try some of these ideas, but remember that if you have a particular situation you want to discuss, please come to me or to your therapist and let us help you out with that!

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