Children with Special Needs

It’s been a while since I’ve added a post to this blog. Over the summer, I took some time off to write some articles, spend time with my family (and my wife’s family), and travel from Toronto to Vancouver with my father. But I’m back in Richmond and ready to start blogging again.

A few nights ago, I attended a panel presentation at the Richmond Children’s Hospital entitled “Partners on the Path: Nurturing the Spirituality of Children with Special Needs and their Families”” This wonderful presentation featured a panel of five parents of children with special needs who spoke about their children, their spiritual lives, and their faith communities.

I could not help but think of my childhood best friend, James, who was a wonderful boy who had spinal bifida. I have never had another friend like James, who I miss often since his death in 2002. James and I were almost inseperable as children, which in itself is not very unusual. What made our friendship extra special, however, was the effort that his mother, my parents, and our teachers put into our relationship. You see, James was in a wheelchair and needed special assistance quite often. Having him over at my home was a rare occasion, but my family did all they could to welcome him. More often, however, they would drive me over to his house. Even after he moved 10-hours away after grade four, my parents helped me keep our special friendship alive by driving me to see him in his new home whenever we could make the trip.

My friendship with James gave me a foundation for my life. It taught me compassion, care, thankfulness, and how to always look on the bright side of life. Yet it would not have been possible without the time and energy that so many caring adults put into our relationship. Teachers would often make exceptions for me so that I could spend extra time with James during recess, special events, and during everyday activities in which he could not participate like the other children.

This leads me to wonder about the way in which churches are treating children with special needs–children like James who can light up a room, but who require a lot of extra attention and care. Do we appreciate them as who they are–speical young people created in God’s image–or do we tell them that our programs or facilities are not set up for children with special needs. I certainly know what Jesus would do.

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