'Let All the Children Come'
Teaching children with disabilities can be frustrating, especially for Bible class volunteers who lack proper training, but thanks to some education professionals at ACU, help is available.
"Let All the Children Come to Me: A Practical Guide to Including Children with Disabilities in Your Church Ministries"grew out of conversations among MaLesa Breeding, dean of the College of Education and Human Services; Dana Hood, chair of the Department of Teacher Education; and Jerry Whitworth, former chair of the Department of Education.
The book, published in 2006 by Cook Communications Ministries, is enjoying great success among church volunteers. A first-hand experience started Hood thinking about how children with disabilities - and their teachers - can be better served in the church.
A better way to serve a special population
One evening, she observed a frustrated volunteer trying to communicate with a child with disabilities. The volunteer obviously did not understand what was going on with the youngster, but Hood did.
"I knew what to do with that child," she said.
Eventually, Hood and her colleagues came up with the idea for a book to give volunteers some basic tools and to help them understand children with disabilities.
"Mainly, one of the things we wanted to do is demystify it," Hood said.
The issue of working with children with disabilities goes farther than the church classroom. Hood said many times families leave the church because no one seems to know how to deal with their child.
The hope is that students in ACU's teacher education program will help fill the void by taking with them the desire to share their knowledge and skills.
"We see them as being leaders in their churches," she said.
Creating advocates for special education
ACU students trained in special education are especially needed and encouraged to share their expertise at church and other places where children with disabilities are served.
"One of the things that special ed teachers need to be able to do is serve as an advocate for a child in various contexts," Hood said, "and to serve as a resource for other people who are serving that child in other contexts and also to serve as a resource for parents."
The foreword to "Let All the Children Come to Me" notes that a Bible class should be "a place where faith is acquired and strengthened, where relationships are formed and deepened while God’s grace and love is displayed, practiced and shared."
And, the authors believe, that should be no different for children who "learn, look, act and behave differently."