Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Inclusion Matters: A Big, Public Thank You.

Google just failed me.  I have seen statistics about the percentage of special needs families who feel unwelcome in church, and it's a big percentage, but I can't find it right now.

But I know a lot of people who stopped going to church because of their child's needs.

Public schools, sometimes criticized by the greater church community, are legally obligated to include our children in the least restrictive environment, even if our kids have big medical or behavioral needs.

Churches, called to serve all people, certainly don't have to include kids like Ellie.  Some do.  Some don't.

Here's an example.  A policy can state that child must be potty trained to attend certain events.  But some kids require extra time for potty training due to low tone, low sensory awareness, poor motor skills, and being on medication which can cause some.... issues.

That policy might exclude a lot of kids with disabilities.  So can lots of other policies, written or unwritten, that make it a challenge for kids with disabilities to feel included.

So here is my big, public THANK YOU to our church.

The only solo picture I have of Ellie from the week.  I don't have photo releases for the other kids.

I've never been made to feel like my kid didn't belong in Vacation Bible School.
I never felt like it was "my job" to help my kid exclusively, and I did feel like it was a team effort.
I never felt like Ellie was anything less than a valued child in our community.

That's how it should be.

Ellie has been singing songs from Vacation Bible School (VBS) nonstop since last Tuesday.
Her theology isn't always great, my favorite being "Jesus is at work FOR us" (instead of through us).

She stood onstage with her friends while they sang at church on Sunday, and while she didn't sing all the songs, she stayed more or less with the group and was included.

Truthfully, this shouldn't be news.  The church should be the most inclusive and safe place I could bring my daughter, but I know from other parents that isn't always the case.  Jesus looked at people with disabilities with compassion and viewed them as valuable.  My child's inclusion in church and religious education shouldn't be something special, but it's something for which I am grateful since not every child gets Ellie's overwhelmingly positive church experience.

So this is a thank you to our church community for including a kid who might be excluded somewhere else.  Thanks for doing the right thing and the biblical thing.  Thanks for loving Ellie.
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  1. this brought tears today. thank you for sharing. so glad Ellie is included and wish all places of "worship" lived their message.

  2. I feel very much the same about our church. We haven't yet put Kate in anything formal, we have been told many times that she is more than welcome.


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