Our guest author today is Jodi, a returned missionary and full-time mom of six children, many with special needs. Even as a little girl Jodi had a natural love for individuals with special needs. Today she is sharing some of her feelings about raising children with special needs in the Church.
I am a mom of six children, all adopted, and special in their own unique ways. The biggest thing that ward members can do to support and help families with special needs is to trust that the parents know best, and not judge.
Trust is so powerful and truly gives the child the best chance at being successful. While leaders of the church receive inspiration for those that they have stewardship over, it is always vital to remember that the parents receive guidance and direction for their children too. Thus parents and church leaders should work together as a team. We have been very blessed to have leaders that trust and support us. We have tried to trust and support them as well.
We have two children with Down Syndrome. Daisy is almost five and Leila is three. A Primary worker was called to specifically help watch over and care for our girls while in Nursery. This gave me great peace of mind in leaving them. Our girls choke easily and knowing that there was somebody there just to keep an extra eye on them was a blessing. Also, because of their delay in development there was always somebody there to help them sit on their chair, or carry them to the next activity (they didn’t walk when others walked). These are some of the accommodations that were made for them in Nursery.
When Daisy was the appropriate age for Sunbeams, she was delayed socially and verbally. I asked that Daisy stay in Nursery for one more year. This is when I appreciated the Primary President’s trust. Consistency and predictability is huge for all children, but especially those children with special needs. I felt that an extra year in Nursery would serve her well, and it did.
The next year, she really should have been transitioning into Sunbeams, but now we were focusing on building endurance in a classroom setting. Once again, I was grateful to a Primary President who trusts us. Daisy now attends Singing Time in Primary, and then returns to Nursery for the rest of the time. We plan to continually transition her into Sharing Time and class time throughout the year. She’ll be fully participating in Primary by next January.
In addition, some special needs aren’t visually apparent like Down Syndrome. Some children struggle with unseen special needs like anxiety disorders, mental health issues, etc. Our oldest son, who is 14, suffers with Reactive Attachment Disorder. The bishop, Young Men and Scout leaders have been very supportive. They listen to our needs and desires, and make accommodations to best help our son. This has done so much for us and for him.
When ministering to and having stewardship over children that have special needs, the best thing that leaders can do to support the child and family is to trust the parents and to work together as a team, never judging. When we come together as one and focus on the individual we are truly ministering as Christ did by focusing on the worth of each individual soul.