By: Kate Ritchie
The Gospel is for all people everywhere! If we genuinely believe this, let us work to mindfully adapt our family discipleship for our kids who have special needs. The Creator God created our children unique. Each of our kids relates to the world in different ways than their siblings or even their parents.
Being a parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder has taught me the importance of seeking to understand how each of my children can individually hear and relate to the message of the Gospel. It is my prayer and the desire of my heart that God would lead me and guide me in wisdom to present the Gospel to my sons in a way that would make it “easy for their hearts to hear.”
As Colossians 4:5-6 says,
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Here are six suggestions to help you adapt family discipleship to help your time be more impactful for all of your children, especially those who have special needs.
- Make a Plan or Visual Schedule
One helpful tip for family discipleship is to make a plan. When children know what is expected of them during activities (including family discipleship time), they are generally more relaxed and attentive. For many of our children who struggle with sensory issues, attention, or autism, this step is crucial. You can make things have more ease by numbering a couple of pictures or writing out a quick visual schedule. These simple things can set up family discipleship for success.
2. Eliminate Distractions
One crucial step that we often forget is to eliminate distractions. Make sure that background noise is off and your space is clear. Consistently use the same spot that is clear of distractions. It can also help to be consistent about the time of day you engage in your family discipleship time. We do family discipleship at the kitchen table during breakfast. A few minutes before, I remove any distractions from the table or the room. We turn off the tv and put our puppy away. I make sure to turn off the drier that runs in the next room. A few thoughtful preparations can help your time be more fruitful.
3. Engage Your Child’s Strengths
Each of my boys has unique, God-given strengths. They have things that they enjoy and things that move their hearts. One of my boys has a great memory. We will sometimes get out a drum and beat it with each word as we memorize a Bible verse. This knowledge from scripture about God has moved into heartfelt worship for him. Another one of my boys is a hands-on learner; he needs to build the Tower of Babel as we learn the story. He loves to engage in crafts and sensory activities as he learns. Hands on activities have helped him remember true things about God. What does your child love? And how can you use that love to stir their affections for Christ? You can use the things God has put in their hearts or in creation to point to their Creator God!
4. Modify Where There are Difficulties
In the same way that we all have strengths, we also all have things that are more difficult for us. If your child struggles with certain textures, you may want to modify specific crafts or prepare parts of them ahead of time. If attention can be difficult, you may need to sprinkle physical movements into your family discipleship like jumping jack breaks or dancing along with worship music. Make family discipleship your own. There is no one way that is right or wrong! You have the freedom to engage your family in a way that is best for your family!
5. Point to Christ Through Spiritual Disciplines
One of the most helpful things for my family has been using spiritual disciplines work through meltdowns and difficult moments. My son who is often anxious and overwhelmed, has learned through family discipleship how to pray his fears back to God. This practice has been formational in teaching him dependency on Christ. The spiritual disciplines are tangible practices that help us experience God (i.e., Bible reading, prayer, Bible memory…etc.). It is good and Godly to practice using the spiritual disciplines during challenging moments. When we engage spiritual disciplines we are teaching them to trust Jesus. For example, taking deep breathes together and saying a prayer is a way to builds tools for your child to run to Christ during hard moments. Turning on an audio Bible before bed or when your child needs time to calm down is another beautiful practice. We often get out our weighted blanket, quiet the house, and listen to a Children’s Bible when we working through hard moments in our home. As simple as this may seem, these intentional practices help our children to form a dependency on Christ when they face the challenges of life.
6. Prayerfully Ask for Wisdom
Finally, the wisdom to uniquely disciple and teach our children about who God is wisdom from Heaven. If this task seems big and difficult, it is because it is big and difficult. The best advice I can give a parent wondering where to begin is to begin in prayer. James 1:5 says this,
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Our God has traveled the greatest distance for us to know him. When we could not reach God on our own, God came to us. He didn’t meet us halfway. Jesus came to us to reveal himself to us, rescue us, and redeem us. When we pray for wisdom for how to teach our children about Jesus, we align ourselves with the will of God! God loves our children. When we humbly offer ourselves as a participant in what God is doing in the lives of our children, God has promised to give wisdom to us generously! Before the task of family discipleship leads you to read another book, parenting blog, or give up because you feel overwhelmed, spend time praying that God would give you his wisdom! He is wise, good, and ready to give his wisdom to you generously!
A note regarding Kids Faith Krate:
As a parent of a child with special needs, I have found Kids Faith Krate to bring some structure to our family discipleship. It is nice to have a plan and not feel like I need to come up with things independently. My boys are great at memory work, so I love that each Krate has a memory verse! The crafts are also great for the hands-on learners who need to engage their sensory systems in our home! Check out Kids Faith Krate if you are looking for a tool to help your family discipleship time!