From the start, let me clarify that I am not an expert on special needs. I have had a few graduate level classes on teaching children with special needs though, and have done quite a bit of volunteer work over the years with children in a variety of settings.
I have had a heart for children with special needs ever since I was a child. One of the things about the Church that breaks my heart is most congregations not only have not done a great job at finding a place for people with special needs, they have done almost nothing to discover and use the gifts they have.
When our daughter was about three years old, she started getting job offers to work in retail. From the time she could walk, if a cabinet door or drawer were open, she would shut it. While we waited to check out in a store, she would automatically start organizing the counter displays to make them look neat and interesting. If I were looking at a rack of clothes, she would start putting things where they belonged on nearby tables. She was blessed by God with the talent of organization. (Which I hasten to add, she did not get from me!)
Some children are not artistic in any way. Their stick figures even look bad and they can’t carry a tune. It would be easy to dismiss them as having no talent. I think the Bible tells us something different. When the members of the Church are spoken of as parts of the body, it appears everyone has a function. It doesn’t say anywhere, “and for the rest of you talentless people”. God has given everyone at least one gift that helps the Church. The trick is to help your child find out what that gift is.
Our daughter had quite a flair for the dramatic when she was younger (I can’t imagine from whom she inherited that trait!). At one point, I warned our pediatrician I would probably bring my daughter in one day with an arm that had been broken for a couple of days. I told the doctor I wasn’t abusive. It was just that every tiny injury our daughter had at that age was most definitely “a broken something, from which I may probably die” (pronounced with much wailing and gnashing of teeth). The pediatrician smiled and said it was a common story from the parents of her patients.
If your child isn’t the dramatic sort, then the previous paragraph makes absolutely no sense to you and you can skip reading the rest. If, however, you totally understand what I am describing, chances are you too have given birth (after three days of excruciating labor – but I digress!) to a dramatic child.
You would think encouraging children’s artistic talent would be so easy every Church is doing it well. Not really. Coloring sheets really do very little to develop artistic talent in anyone. In fact, I have known many adult artists who still struggle with how to use their gifts for God.
As a non-artist, I have to beat the bushes for help with all of the art projects I am unable to do well. Even those people who are very talented, downplay their artistic abilities when I ask for their help. Maybe it’s because the art world is very competitive and it can be a difficult way to make money. People assume if they aren’t making lots of money with their art, they have no talent. As a non-artist, I say God can use whatever artistic talent you have or can fake!
Probably the best thing to ever happen to photography and children was digital photography. Now parents don’t have to spend tons of money letting their children practice taking pictures only to end up with envelopes filled with unusable photos. Children can practice for hours at no cost (other than the camera) to the family budget. Your child has a better chance than ever of discovering and developing the gift of photography.
Many people enjoy taking pictures. Facebook is filled with photos depicting everything happening in the lives of our teens. So how do you know if this is a gift your child has been given by God to use in His Kingdom? In some ways you don’t. I am by no means a gifted photographer, but many of my photos have been used to promote missions, Bible classes and other things that glorify God. Sometimes a “good enough” photo, is good enough to be used by God.