ObjectivesParticipants will• Define Hidden Disabilities• Discuss effects of HD on church involvement• Identify God’s design for HD ministry• List practical strategies for welcoming and teaching children with HD• Summarize challenges that parents of kids with HD face• Practice planning for students using case studies
Know-Wonder-LearnWhat do we What do we What did weKNOW? WONDER? LEARN?
What are Hidden Disabilities?A hidden disability (HD) is a serious emotional, behavioral, developmental or neurological disorder with no outwardly apparent symptoms
Examples of Hidden Disabilities:• Autism, autistic spectrum disorders• Developmental disabilities• Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)• Learning disabilities• Anxiety disorders• Mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder)• Attachment disorders (common among adopted, foster children)• Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE)• Brain injury: resulting from trauma, epilepsy, stroke Stephen Grcevich, MD, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
“Rethinking” disability and church• An individual with a disability is defined as a person who has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. Taken from www.joniandfriends.org
“Rethinking” disability and church• If a mental or physical impairment substantially limits a person’s ability to actively pursue spiritual growth and fully participate in the ministry of a local church, is that person “disabled?”
The Ultimate Low-Hanging Fruit for Evangelism, Outreach? • 9% of U.S. kids ages 6-17 have received Rx for ADHD meds • 1/91 kids born in 2008 will be diagnosed with autism • Prevalence of anxiety disorders among U.S. youth: 8-20% • 12-20% of school age population needs mental health treatment • What about siblings who don’t get to experience church? • Who equips parents to shepherd their kids in the faith? • Key Ministry estimate: families of children with HD at least 50% less likely to be involved with a local churchReport of the Surgeon General of the United States, 1999
What barriers keep families of kids withhidden disabilities from coming to Christ orgrowing in faith?
How do HDs pose barriers to church participation, spiritual growth?:• Difficulties with self-regulation: sitting through worship service, arriving on time, practicing spiritual disciplines• Developmentally inappropriate inattention: difficulty with didactic teaching, distracted while praying, reading Bible• Lack of ability to accurately perceive social cues: don’t “fit in” with middle, high school groups, feel rejected by peers, view Christians as hypocrites• Abnormal responses to sensory input, stimulation: volume of music, brightness of lights, bold color, physical contact experienced as aversive
How do HDs pose barriers to church participation?:• Restricted pattern of interests or behavior: lack interest in group participation, rigid• Misperception of danger level, embarrassment risk: visiting church for first time is intimidating, avoid groups apprehensive about new experiences… mission trips, retreats, self-disclosure distressing• Difficulty with learning/communication: child or adult with dyslexia asked to read aloud from the Bible
How do HDs pose barriers to church participation?:• Disproportionate fear, physiologic response to stress: crowded lobbies or worship auditorium, separation from parents• Difficulty with transition, change: interactions with unfamiliar people, transitions from one ministry team to another• Inappropriate affect: child laughs, expresses indifference at a sad story, irritated when greeted by others
Why is church so hard for kids with HiddenDisabilities?• Expectations for kids to sit for extended periods• Leaders of church-based educational programs don’t have training or experience in working with kids with disabilities• Environment often less structured, more noisy than school• Lots of youth activities occur at times when medication has worn off or rebound is occurring• Parents sometimes choose not to use effective medication on weekends
More HD issues related to church• Kids may obsess about rituals and rules• New situations/pressure to “share feelings” can be anxiety producing• Church can be unpredictable, loud and unstructured• Faith is INTANGIBLE; difficult for kids who are concrete thinkers
What about the parents? (The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!)• 50% of kids with ADHD have persistent impairment as adults…77% of ADHD cases attributed to genetics• Heritability of anxiety disorders: 40-80%• More likely to be divorced or never married• If untreated, they’re more likely to have experienced a substance use disorder
Barriers for Parents:• Parents fear being judged within the Christian community• Parents become tired of having to manage their child’s behavior—and explain it to others in new settings• Social isolation is often the norm; families affected by hidden disabilities are less likely to be invited to church• Stress, economic strain and fatigue common• More likely to stay home on Sunday
Needs of kids• Parents equipped to shepherd them in their faith• To learn about God and the love He has for all of us through His son, Jesus Christ• The opportunity to serve others…to use and develop their gifts• Connecting with other Christians as a positive experience “The best hour of the week”• To experience other Christians (adults and peers) acting and speaking in accordance with professed beliefs• Acceptance
Needs of parents• A church willing to partner with parents in equipping them to be the primary faith trainer for all of their children• Experience opportunities to grow in their faith unencumbered by immediate care demands of their child (worship, small groups, service)• Respite• Community• Acceptance
What do I hope will happen today?• God will use this experience equip you to more effectively minister to families of kids with HD already in your church• You’ll take away strategies to reach and welcome a large segment of families in your community who aren’t connected to a church• You’ll consider how to include more families impacted by HDs into your existing programming• Your church will increase its’ commitment to a region- wide project to reach families of children, youth with special needs through a “rolling respite network” http://www.freerespite.com
What does God have to say about this?• Make disciples of all people (Matthew 28:19-20)• Share the hope of the Gospel and serve those who are broken (Luke 4:18-19, Matthew 25:40)• The church is incomplete without the gifts of all(1 Corinthians 12:14-31)• He will get the glory! (John 9:1-3)
SO…now what?• Key ways to make Sunday morning successful for all kids: – Set the table…(How can I prepare?) – Meat –n--potatoes (What do I want my students to learn?) – Be Rachel Ray (How can I model “best practices” for those around me?) – Party hearty! (What successes can I celebrate and share?)
Welcome!• Respond quickly and without judgment to parents of kids having difficulty• Train greeters to alert appropriate staff/volunteers• Ministry leader in place with appropriate means of communication• Create a quiet place to meet with parent, child• Offer the parent the option of attending worship or staying with their child at first visit• Contact the family after their first visit• Implement a plan to serve the child by the following week that is agreeable to the parent
Ministry Intake:• Not an event, but a process: relationship- building• Not all families will self-identify• Handling referrals from a Sunday School teacher• Reassure parents that their child isn’t being labeled• Maintain communication with parents• Update information yearly on intake forms
Practical Strategies• Behavior management• Planning and collaborating with teachers• Social Stories• Scheduling• Finding that “just right” fit• Identify—and use--each child’s gifts• Identify—and use—each volunteer’s gifts
The “key” point of the lesson?Jesus loves me, this I know…for the Bible tells me so.
Parents have special needs, too• What does God say about Sundays?• What have the last 6 days been like for parents?
What does the Bible say about workingwith parents?• 1 Corinthians 12:14-31~ We need them in the body• Romans 12:11-17~ Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep…• 1 Peter 3:8~ Unity, love of each other, sympathy, humble mind• 1 Corinthians 8:1b-3~ “Knowledge puffs up; but love builds up.”
Know-Wonder-LearnWhat do we What do we What did weKNOW? WONDER? LEARN?
HELP WANTED:Sunday School teachers with a heart forkids with Hidden DisabilitiesExperience needed: NONE; but a willingness to learn and an ability to love kids is essentialHours: Sunday mornings, weekly prep timeBenefits: Your salary will be kept in a safe, fully secure location, where it cannot be stolen. It will remain free of moths and undamaged by rust.….You can pick it up when you get home
Key Ministry: How Can We Serve You? Key Ministry: www.keyministry.org provides resources to churches free of charge: Best Practices Resource Kit “Key Ring Binder” Web-based resources (Blogs, Twitter, Facebook) Opportunities to network with other churches Phone consultation On-site consultation, training Celebrating your successes Local and National conferences Praying for you
Please Stay in Touch! Key Ministry FoundationRebecca Hamilton, Executive Director 8401 Chagrin Road, Suite 14B Chagrin Falls OH 44023 Phone: 440/708-4488 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com www.keyministry.org