1. Communicate with us. We want to know how our child is doing, and this means communicating both the good and the bad. Express your care by taking the time to talk to us about what is going on in our home and how you can be praying for our child – especially if the child is unable to share prayer requests.
2. Provide take-home tools. Send home a small piece of paper with the lesson key point and Bible verse. If the child is nonverbal or has limited communication, the parents won’t know how to continue the conversation at home to help them better understand God’s Holy Word.
3. Trust us. We know our child better than anyone else. If there is a behavior situation, ask us for tips on effective methods we use at home. If a parent comes to you with a fear or concern, please take it seriously. Understand that those fears come with a history. Youth leaders and parents are made to be a team.
4. Pour into us, too. Parents of students with disabilities need to be spiritually fed too, and that means we need a break from explaining our child’s needs and our decisions. There are times when we just need to sit in the church lobby with our spouse or a friend and talk. Don’t just allow us to take a break, encourage it. We may offer to be with our child at church … Don’t let us.
5. Pray with us. Please don’t let fears keep you from praying with us. Even if you aren’t an expert in disabilities or even politically correct all the time, your prayers are appreciated and needed by all families in the church.
6. Relate to the sibling. The siblings of the students with special needs need a break. They may feel like they’re always taking care of their sibling so try to not make them responsible for the other student. This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t do church together – They should worship alongside each other.
7. Connect us. If there are other parents in the church who have walked a similar road, help us get together. We need the support of people who really get it.
8. Embrace Kingdom work for every child. The best way the church can serve parents with students with special needs is by giving opportunities to see the children as fruitful. They, too, are created with specific gifts for the Kingdom. We want a church culture that sees them as fellow Kingdom workers who are also growing into deeper relationship with Christ through service.
Bekah Behnke is a CIY guest columnist, blogger and special needs ministry facilitator for Christ’s Church of Oronogo (MO). To reach out to her, please email email@example.com.