There are many frustrations that come with being a parent of a child with special needs. One of those frustrations can include getting your child involved in organizations that they want to be a part of. I was talking to a mother of a child who has special needs and she was expressing that she wanted him involved in her church just as his siblings were. He would be welcomed in the choir but could not sing. Personally, I don’t like the idea of a child who cannot sing sitting with the choir just so he is technically included. This child happened to use a communication device. I suggested that this young individual read from the Bible during mass. He could still sit with the choir but I felt like his unique talents should be showcased.
In college, I got very involved in the Catholic Church. I had to show my church how I could contribute during mass and even beyond mass. During mass, I would volunteer to read one of the gospels for the day. The congregation and leaders of my Church appreciated the fact that I was open about what I could do and how I could contribute to their church. In return, I felt valued and not just “the woman in the wheelchair.” I was asked to speak about my strong faith to the high school group at my church. People started seeing me as parishioner who could give not just receive in the church. I feel very blessed to be a part of a congregation that values my individual talents.
This example happens to be about participation in a religious service. We can be leaders and articulate our needs anywhere. For example, I went to a theater summer camp. I could not sing but I could play Tinkerbell when they sang all of the Disney songs. I was also Franklin Roosevelt in Annie…the wheelchair looked pretty real! If you have the right people, right attitude, and can articulate your unique skill set, you can be appreciated and included in any community!