Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mormons + Disabilities=?

The topic of differently abled people has been a topic I've seen the past few weeks among Mormons. How the church reacts to their children, and how the people inside the church react.

Every church has it's niche. Jews have a fabulous community program, the Methodist have great mental health services, Catholics have great services for the homeless and pregnant teenagers, and Mormons are great at taking care of their own and, disaster relief efforts have been untouched. And  well, making dinner.


Their is a local non-denominational church that is known for their disability services. Every time someone moves to the area and ask for advice I tell them to go there. Not only do they offer amazing services, they know doctors, therapists, medicaid in and out, and overall just nice people.


So Mormons...well, now there's an effort on the disability front. Just last year they created a "Disability coordinator." But until then, these families have been basically swept under the rug and ignored.

I've talked to people, we've sat around discussing why it's taken The Church so long to catch on. And you know what we came up with?
It has now effected Church leaders. More and more Conference talks have mentioned a niece, nephew, friend, etc that have a disability. They've seen how members react and how so many are ignorant and pathetically uneducated on the topic. This is just our speculation.

There is one page, (barely) in the Primary manual about teaching children with disabilities. And it's pathetic. It tells you to find what works for the student and to show love and compassion to them. That's it. If you've never worked with or even spoke to a person with a disabilities that is useless.

I've seen the Church react differently when a member has disabilities. My current ward leaders have made our ward a "disability haven."  The Primary president taught Special Education, the Young Men and Women's leaders have worked with other members with disabilities, the Bishop has the best intentions and uses the resources he has available to him. He's gone to the houses to get to know the child and family.

Discrimination is not tolerated in Primary. In my class of 10/11 year olds I have a student with an IQ possibly double mine, and a student who can barely read. With seven other students in between, making a lesson every week is exhausting and challenging. But I some how manage to get it so that both extreme's get something out of the lesson.

In the past my mom has been called to teach a specific Sunday School or Primary class because she teaches Special Ed and there is a student they simply don't know how to approach. If she is unable to teach because of another calling she's been reached out to as a resource. And that's ok! That's fantastic! That's using your resources. She's enjoyed all of these callings, and I think they've helped her to be a better school teacher today.

My current Relief Society and Priesthood Presidencies do their best, they really don't know what to do, but they have the best intentions at heart and most importantly: no judgement.

Judging each other is a problem among Mormons. I think because we hold each other to a higher standard we sometimes unintentional become judgmental. However, sometimes it is intentional.

 "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.." John 8:7

How is that a church preaches about loving one another and no one is perfect is so judgmental of it's own members?

We tell parents of children with disabilities how pure their child's spirit is. How they were on the right hand of God, yet we run away from them. We fail to see what the parents see:

A Child of God

I Am A Child Of God

Instead we see a child who looks funny, walks funny, talks funny, has a different way of expressing themselves, or can't talk.

If someone lets their child go home early or skip a meeting they're horrible parents, letting their child walk all over them. Or if the disability is not easily seen it's all in their head. Or my favorite "the doctors are wrong.."
A child with ADHD is not disciplined properly. Someone with Bipolar is just moody. Autism/ Asperger's is a misdiagnosis or bad parenting.

I Am A Child Of God

I've seen people leave The Mormon church because how the congregation acted towards their child. One family had a son with Downs Syndrome. The Primary president told the mom if her son was to attend Primary she had to sit in their with him. The teacher would ignore him during class, and no one seemed to see her son for who he he was. He was just "the boy with Downs Syndrome."

I saw a mom scream at her Bishop because he refused to interview her son with Aspergers for the Priesthood. You think that family ever came back to church?

The gospel of Jesus Christ is pure and perfect, it's the people that aren't. This is something these strong parent's need to remember.

I'm not saying that families with someone with disabilities should leave the church because they are ill equipped.  I'm saying we as members need to reach out, not simply "talk the talk."

I can't get youtube to cooperate, click on the link to hear a song that is taught in Primary that sums up this topic perfectly.

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