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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ministry To Persons With Disabilities

A few weekends ago Sister gathered all of us taking Methods to a day seminar on ministry to persons with disabilities.

Notice, first off, how I said that: Persons with disabilities.

At first I had to admit to my jaded thoughts about "those people". I was tired of hearing them get special treatment and I'd come across one to many victimized individuals who were more interested in making sure others felt sorry for them. I wasn't sure what to expect.

I have to say, I learned a great deal that day.

First we had Dr Joseph White who is quite the expert on the topic. He has written several great books for Our Sunday Visitor which I encourage you to get and read. They aren't long, and they are quite practical, especially for Catechist training. The particular book on children with disabilities is called Catechists for All Children. He talks about the fearful or withdrawn child, the inattentive or impulsive child, the child with low intellectual functioning or learning disabilities, children with special physical needs and non-speaking children. All of his wisdom can be applied to high school kids as well.

His main point was that all of God's children deserve an education by the Church. It is not them who need to learn to adapt the the Church: They can't. It is the Church who needs to adapt and find ways to serve any child who has anything that might hinder them from hearing the Good News. It is our job to learn more about their needs and provide all we can for them.

One of the things I had a question on was whether or not you keep a kid who does have special needs in your classroom. For instance, the year after I left the 11th &12th grade class had a girl with Down's Syndrome and it was rough on everyone. I wondered if it would have been better to have her parents teach her.

Sister responded that persons with disabilities deserve to be a part of the classroom as much as any other person. We are not "normal" we are simply "typical". The other kids in the class room can learn a great deal about being unselfish and compassionate by having, say a teen with Down's Syndrome or a wheelchair or anything else in the classroom. It is just as important for this teen to have community as any other child. Wouldn't you think they have it hard enough in the world, at school and the mall, etc: Why can't we rise above and be a place of security and accaptance?

In the afternoon Kevin B, a former student and a frequent Bosco Conference contributer, spoke, and I found his presentation to be the most profound. He led us to remember that we are all, in some way, "defective" because sin makes us so. Not only sin, but our own limitations. I can't go run a marathon right now, I'd die. I don't have the greatest memory, so I have to look stuff up all the time. Kevin skillfully made us aware that we are in communion with our brothers and sisters who have observable disabilities, we are more able to hide our own defects and inabilities. It was a transformative moment for me. In the next post I'll give more of his outline because I loved his presentation.

In the end, it was a great and changing day. I learned things I discovered I was ignorant about. I was glad. I was glad to have my mind changed.



Blogger Turk said...

Does Dr. White believe that Catholic Scools should meet the needs of children with special need or qas his presentation just on Religious Education Classes/ Youth Ministery at the Church?

1:50 PM  

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