Matthew 19:14 NIV 2011 reads, “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
I sometimes wonder how many times people realize this verse is applied to ALL children. Not just the “perfect” child (what a horrible term) where they are always being attentive in class, listening perfectly at church, always listening to mom and dad, and even children with special needs.
Over the years, I have spent a fair amount of time working with children in the church settings who have been diagnosed with one of three Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Now, I know there are children who are not categorized with having ASD that are special needs as well, but this appears to be the most common within churches.
Today I had the privilege of getting to work with a special needs child in our Third Grade Small Group in church. This boy was able to understand everything that was going on around him, but the way he approached things was completely different than those around him. Not normally being in this classroom (I was filling in for a Small Group Leader who could not be present), I saw this as a perfect opportunity to allow the other teacher in the room to take charge allowing me to put focus one on one with this child. I noticed he liked doing things with his hands. There was a piano in the room and he could not keep his hands off of those keys! It was distracting to me, let alone the children. So I politely urged the other teacher to switch roles with myself with the rest of the children. I grabbed some paper and markers and said to him, “Let’s draw!”
Once we got to the table I asked him if he remembered what story was told in Larger Group from earlier that day. After listening to his response I suggested to him that we draw something from the lesson. He chose drawing Jesus riding the donkey into the city of Jerusalem. I pulled out the verse that the story was about and I read it to him while we talked about the story as he was coloring.
It always amazes me how something as simple as one-on-one attention with a child can bring out not only the best of a child, but the love of God through the child. This boy really grasped the story from today even though it had appeared he was not paying an ounce of attention. Better yet, once parents started to come to pick up their children from the class some of the girls in the class came over and wanted to color Jesus on a donkey as well. This really touched my heart because these girls showed Jesus’ love by coming over and talking about Palm Sunday with this child I was originally coloring with. It didn’t matter to them that he was “different” than them. Jesus was the thing that unified them and brought them together. Not only was I able to minister to the child who needed one-on-one attention, God ministered to me by reinforcing the power of God’s love through a child today. I LOVE BEING REMINDED ABOUT THAT!
Special needs children don’t want to be treated any different than those around them. So there’s no need to treat them differently. We can easily apply the methods we use to present God to every other child to special needs children, even when we can’t say the name of Jesus. We just have to make it that much more personal to meet them where they are! After all, isn’t that what Jesus did for us?
“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” John 1:14 NLT
If God can become man just so he can have a relationship with us, we can most certainly give the attention needed to children who need it that much more!
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