Lately I have been trying to put into words the importance of spiritual recognition with our students and others with disabilities only to wrestle with word after words. There is no one way to “Evoke God.” God is present. Knowing that may be realized in many ways, different from person to person and group to group. It happens in fellowship, community, planned worship, unplanned moments of discovery, and, in many instances, it happens usually not in cognitive ways. It happens with significant persons who are steady, present and role models in their ways of recognizing and worshipping God. It happens when there is a sacred flow of love and thought. It happens with routine and symbols, and it happens when the senses are awakened and used, and it is important to know your friends in this respect. Music is great for some, but definitely not for persons who are deaf. Colorful worship materials are great for most, but meaningless for persons who are blind. Here is the great importance of using varied ways of worship or God conversations.
See how hard it is to use words to describe intuitive knowing? In two paragraphs, I didn’t get it right. Let’s keep working on it.
Our prayer circles – the taking of unrushed time that is intentional and celebrated can bring about an intuitive “knowing” of the presence of God. Well, maybe. Maybe not. Who knows? That knowing varies like water that is sometimes still, sometimes rippled and may look stagnant but is not. God’s mix and ways. Be encouraged even if you don’t always see a celebration of the knowing.
I have produced a CD for buddy/mentors of children with disabilities, and am completing one for mentors and leaders of adults and teens with special needs. It defines the role of mentors, tells how the roles vary, talks of medical information and has an information sheet, suggests safety practices and gives simple and basic teaching tips including ways to use music with children with disabilities.
Buddies are a necessity whether you are mainstreaming or operating in a separate church or recreational group, and training for them is primo. To request a CD (for the price of mailing) contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to send correct address.
Children with Disabilities love a seek-and-find story. I’ve been busy making boxes of story for our children’s group. Find boxes to fit your pictures, glue the pictures inside the boxes, and attach with tacks to the wall at eye level. Then put the lids on the boxes. Children love opening the boxes to help tell the story of Christmas. In January we continue with boxes about the life of Jesus. It’s the same for everyone: we learn the characters, and then, little by little, over the years, we find out what the story really means. If we are lucky we remember the real Christmas gift all year and we make new discoveries about Jesus as we go along. I just love discovery. For more information, go to How to Use Stories With Students With Disabilities.
On another front, our teen and adult groups hold their year end Christmas party on December 8. We can’t decide who has the most fun – Santa who brings gifts, the leaders who watch it all, Jim who drops in to share fun with his favorite persons, or the students who share their gifts with us. The Harbor Light Choir will entertain with a carol program.
This week’s talent show was so awesome it renewed my feeling that what the leader-volunteers do is beyond measure. It also showed us that our students grow. With no rehearsal, just an announcement the week before, about twenty adults shared their talents. One young man who for ten years has frozen in front of a group faced the audience and sang clearly into the karioke mike. A shy, stuttering young woman became tongue-tied facing the audience until a leader put her arm on the woman’s shoulder, turned her around making her back to the audience to sing her song. Some told jokes, and others had jokes lined out to them by the master of ceremonies. A big, well-prepared guy passed out copies of his song, gave an accompaniment disc to the master of ceremonies, sang four verses and asked the audience to join him on the last. The most touching for me was a very shy person, who had obviously been at war with herself over participating, stood up at the very end after the group was asked if anyone else wanted to do something. She reluctantly got to the front, faced the audience, and, unaccompanied, in a beautiful soprano voice sang “Silent Night.”
To read how our students grow in many ways see stories of spiritual growth.
The new term “intellectual disabilities” is becoming widely used, but it is not widely understood. For example, does a person with a learning disability fall into this category, one that is strictly defined by government standards?
According to the National Institutes of Health, one in seven Americans has some type of learning disability. Yet those with learning disabilities seem to not fall into the category of intellectual disability unless their functioning level is below 70-75 and they have limitations in defined living functions. So does this term apply? I’ve searched, but find no reference. If you can interpret, please speak up.
I applaud the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation (appointed in 1966) for finding the new, less offensive term. The committee now has a new name: President’s Committee on Intellectual Disabilities, and they have removed some of the confusion about the category regarding mental illness. They are also heavily involved in upholding the rights of all people with intellectual disabilities in their efforts to be more independent and productive members of society.
Sitting next to you at a meeting of adults may be someone with dsgraphia or dyscalculia, only two of several processing functions that are considered learning disabilities. I was surprised to learn that technically ADHD often occurs with learning disabilities, but it is not the same.
I’m compiling a glossary of special needs terms for my web site. Man! It is not as easy as you might think.