My son, Samuel, is a 7th grader and so has recently promoted to that scary entity called the youth group. This rite of passage has caused me to look back with great thankfulness upon his years as a preschooler and young child at our church. I have a bumper sticker that reads, "My kid has more chromosomes than yours!" I love that, because it takes a lighthearted approach to what has been a life-changing reality for our family: Sam has Down syndrome.
Church has long been one of Sam’s best places. What I mean by that is that he has been loved well in the hallways and taught well in the classroom. From bed babies through sixth grade, caring adults have been his buddies, offering one-on-one guidance in Sunday school, missions, and music activities while my husband and I enjoy much-needed adult time in our classes. As do our other children, Sam knows about Jesus, and he definitely knows about Christian hugs.
I have been wonderfully blessed over the past five years or so to be the contract editor of Bible Teaching for Kids Special Buddies. It’s a job I would never have been considered for in my pre-Samuel days. Now, the mission of this Bible study curriculum for children who have developmental special needs resonates with me: every child can become a Christian. Every child. Sam looks at the world in a totally different way than do typically-developing children. I don’t think that bothers God at all. In fact, I like to imagine that God finds it refreshing to see Sam in worship, his socked feet propped up on the balcony rail. When we sing the hymn "Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine," that kid perks right up and sings along. It’s the gospel in a nutshell.
The additional chromosome Sam was born with definitely shakes things up when it’s time for him to sit still and participate in Sunday school. Is there a family in your church that includes a child with a little something extra? Maybe the child has a hard time in social situations. Perhaps she’s nonverbal or makes strange noises. Maybe he’s in first grade and not totally toilet trained or will never read on grade level. Guess what? You can make a huge difference in the life of that child and that family. Bible stories and hugs — that’s the best place to start.
Special Buddies can help you spiritually grow a child with special needs. The curriculum is easily adapted for kids who attend a regularly-graded classroom and kids who attend a self-contained special needs class on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights. It’s available in a dated curriculum format, and a few undated sessions are also available now, with more to come. To learn more, go to lifeway.com, or go here to download a sample leader and learner guide session.
Joy Fisher is the editor for Special Buddies, but you can also find product reviews by Joy in the pages of ParentLife Magazine. Follow Lifeway Special Needs Ministry on Facebook here.