Talking Silently Image courtesy creative commons license flickr.com by Vandan Desai
"Is it not possible to look beyond the canes, the wheelchairs, the braces, and the crutches into the hearts of the people who have need of these aids? They are human beings and want only to be treated as ordinary people. They may appear different, move awkwardly, and speak haltingly, but they have the same feelings. They laugh, they cry, they know discouragement and hope. They do not want to be shunned. They want to be loved for what they are inside, without any prejudice for their impairment. Can there not be more tolerance for differences—differences in capacity, differences in body and in mind?
Those who are close to the handicapped can frequently feel the nobility of the spirits who are confined in differently shaped bodies or who have crippled minds." -James E. Faust, "The Works of God", Ensign, Nov. 1984, 54
When I was 11 years I got to hold a baby for the first time in my life. My parents struggled with fertility and I was an only child. I was at a friend's home and with 6 children it was quite different from my home. At one point I ended up in a rocker holding a precious little baby. I can clearly remember how beautiful I thought she was. I held her and she went to sleep amid so much noise and chaos. I traced her face with my finger and was just so very grateful to be holding such an amazing blessing from God. That sweet angel had Down Syndrome. She died a few years later. Her and my son actually share the same death date (not the same year). God's timing is so interesting.
From that moment in my life, I've had a deep and profound respect for God's special children. They are perfect. They can learn. They are here to teach us. So let's love.
I feel very strongly about teaching my children the value of God's special children. In fact, so much that they both went through an "Integrated Learning Preschool" with our district. It was a program designed to have "typical" children help differently abled children adjust to a school setting. At 4 years old, my daughter was hugging a little girl in a wheelchair that couldn't talk, everyday. To learn about compassion, one must actually do it. Look for situations in which you can help enrich your children's lives by having them interact with differently abled children. It is a blessing, plain and simple.
I think THIS resource is excellent from the church website, dispelling some common myths about working with people "differently-abled".
What are some ideas on how to teach primary children more compassion, love and understanding when it comes to another who is severely handicap? (Specifically in Sharing Time)
* First off, parents need to teach their children the profound respect and love that should be shown to differently abled children. If there is a severely disabled child in primary that "scares" the other children with loud abrupt noises, invite parents in to sit with their children and reassure them that there is nothing to be scared of and that we are all God's children. We must show love! Parents can have FHE's with children and encourage card making, cookie baking for those friends they might be "scared" of. Often people just don't know what to do. You can spotlight a differently abled child in a primary newsletter- perhaps they really like being read too. You can invite others to read to the child anytime! Do they love flowers? Mention it and encourage people to stop in and bring flowers anytime... dandelions are flowers as far as I'm concerned, especially when a 3 year old picks them, it doesn't have to be a boquet from Costco. Of course, the parents of the differently abled child know best. See what they think and ask them ways the children can serve their friend!!
* Sing I'll Walk With You (CS #140). Have children hold up a variety of pictures of children who are differently abled while you sing. Invite the children to share one way they can show love for someone who is like the one pictured. (If it's a blind person, they could talk to them and describe what Disneyland looks like. If it's a deaf person, they can learn something in sign language!! If it's a person in a wheel chair, they can sit and talk with them. Brainstorm as many ideas as you can together!!)
* Involve the severely disabled child, show the other children they are of worth and can help with lessons. Even if it's just taping a picture to their wheelchair, you can thank them for their help and smile at them!!! Let the children see your love for that child and they will follow. Watch for timing, if you ask a question and the severely disabled child makes a noise, roll with it! Thanks Aidan!! You must be trying to say Nephi and you're exactly right!!! We're so lucky to have Aidan share his thoughts with us! Of course you can't do this every time, but once in a while it might fit.
* Jude 1:32 "And of some have compassion, making a difference"
Bring in a toy car that's bent. Bring in a toy tow truck. Both are ways to get from one place to another, yet they each work differently. We are like the tow trucks and can help others whose bodies don't work like ours. Have a little road on the ground and come up with 7 different scriptures, questions and songs based on compassion and charity. Invite the children to move the car forward a little each time they answer a question, read a scripture, etc. At the end of the road have a picture of the Savior. Both cars worked together to make a difference, just like the Savior.
* Have about 7 paper hearts that graduate in size. Love is a wonderful thing. We can show a little bit of love or a huge amount of love in life. The greatest and grandest love we can have is that of charity.
Turn to the Bible Dictionary which says, "Charity. The highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, not merely affection; the pure love of Christ. It is never used to denote alms or deeds of benevolence, although it may be a prompting motive "
Have hearts hidden throughout the room, invite the children to find them. Have questions, songs and scriptures having to do with compassion on them. Have them order the hearts in size. At the end, perhaps you can tape the heart on a severely disabled child's wheel chair. Bear testimony that you know loving all of God's children and praying for them and helping them will make us happy. It will make our Heavenly Father happy. (Of course, speak to the differently abled child's parents first. Perhaps they don't want extra attention drawn to their child. WORK WITH PARENTS and do what is best for the child.)
* Have 7 small mystery boxes. Today we'll be talking about something very special. Something that Christ taught we should have in our lives. Invite the children to see what's under the boxes. Use 1 Corinthians 13 to fill up the boxes. For example one could have a large mountain- The Apostle Paul said "and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not.... (this??), I am nothing." Have the children guess, but don't answer right away. Another box could include a small horn. Sometimes when adults drive they get angry and honk their horn a lot. (This??)" is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil". In the end, have 7 children come up front holding the boxes, write C-H-A-R-I-T-Y (one letter per box). We've seen a couple different ways that Paul has described charity, now have the children draw pictures or write thoughts and share a couple if there is time.
1 Corinthians 13:13 "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."
If anyone has any other ideas, please please please feel free to share. This post is in response to an email I received. I hope it can be of some help.