No matter what the government programs can do and can’t do for people with special needs; churches reaching out to people with intellectual disabilities and families can provide so much more. From Friendship Ministries to involvement in day programs, at group and host homes and support groups for parents and siblings the church is called to reaching out, especially to people with intellectual disabilities who have reached adulthood. The recent trend to work towards “living independently” by some well meaning agencies is opening the door to some mixed results which include liability; insurance; accountability, and safety for the person with the disability and also public safety. “Without mentors or caregivers and without constant supervision and community involvement, we are asking for trouble,” says one health official in Colorado.
While trouble may not be as severe as what happened in New Town, special needs families who are involved in a church that has programs and involvement that support the entire family are less likely to have problems. “There is a movement in many communities to take the statistics of a growing special needs community and build their own communities that will come alongside people with intellectual disabilities and take necessary and proactive precautions instead of building an independent apartment complex to see how they will do on their own,” says another mental health professional.
Institutions that did not work
From Willowbrook in Staten Island, New York to Ridge near Denver there has been a sad history of special needs people being warehoused in conditions “worse than the hippo house in the zoo.” The medical profession has come up with answers that are more like death camps instead of finding ways to deal with someone with an intellectual disability. Author Gabe Lyons describes it this way, “Very few Down syndrome babies make it into the world. Many pregnant and expectant parents who are presented with a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome are faced with a serious life-or-death decision. And when presented with this dilemma, an overwhelming majority chooses to terminate the life of their baby.” In his book “The Next Christians” Lyon’s goes through the situation as a father who did get that diagnosis and was given the alternative of aborting the baby. Lyon’s goes on to say that “90 percent of mothers choose to terminate their babies.” “Everything in the culture points them to the babies extinction.” Insurance companies, malpractice; health care bills, government and burden to society and the family, are all cited by the medical profession and then comes something that is even more alarming-up to 5 percent of the diagnosis’s are false!
The church is the answer
There are churches, too few perhaps, that will take the responsibility for all God’s children in their communities. “Special needs people and their families are a mission field in our own neighborhoods,” says a local pastor in the Denver area. “So many churches do not invite or include them in their churches until someone feels they are called to this segment in the community.” This may be why the church is too often absent in reaching out to people with intellectual disabilities. Yet many of the government agencies that exist were founded by church organizations. A leader in a national group says “we are limited in how much faith we can talk about while managing group and host homes.” There are also other obstacles such as separatists as well as the all inclusive. “it comes to a hybrid,” says a special needs pastor, churches within churches he offers. “Jesus invited the least of these and trained disciples to reach out to the least of these, so therefore a church founded with that as the baseline is a church that is dedicated to being a special church for people with special needs; their families and caregivers.”
Let the children come to me
In his speech at New Town President Obama quoted Jesus from the gospel of Matthew, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” There has never been a better argument for life or what the church is to become. “We need to be places where children of all abilities and disabilities can meet Jesus, and to support parents and caregivers in their spiritual growth,” the special needs pastor asserts.
A lethal bond
While Adam Lanza was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, the disability itself was by most accounts, not a factor in the murders. The isolation, the lack of community support and help for Lanza and his family, an emphasis on ‘privacy” issues and legal pressures often prevent families from getting community support including the church may have contributed to the breakdown. “In this case, guns were a hobby for Nancy Lanza and became the last ditch bonding mechanism between Adam and Nancy.
A death culture
An impulsive outburst of anger turned into a mass murder of proportions that could have been prevented with proper support from a faith community.” While this may seem like an affront to a secular society, it is a reasonable conclusion to those who live their faith. “It is a death culture from media to this misconception of what Jefferson meant by “the great wall of separation,” and Christian outreach and influence in our society and care giving,” the pastor continues. “Ironically Newtown is only a few miles from where the Danbury Baptists wrote and received the letters from President Jefferson, which assured them that government would not interfere and form one state religion as did Henry the VIII in England. And yet what the culture has done, by taking one phrase out of context, has created a separation of support from the church and community. It is like taking a gun and putting it in the hands of someone who cannot differentiate right from wrong, and truth from consequence and life from death.
President Obama says “I have had enough of speaking at the sites of mass murders.” It goes beyond just gun control, it comes to redefining and valuing life and self-control.
For more information on churches for people with intellectual disabilities and to start one in your community e-mail email@example.com.