“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Church as community recreation

Teaching Exceptional Children is a kind of a research magazine put out by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), perhaps the largest special education professional organization in the United States. In the July/August 2007 edition, there was an article entitled, "Including students with moderate and severe disabilities in extracurricular and community recreation activities: Steps to success." The article by Kleinert, Miracle and Sheppard-Jones briefly describes a survey of special education teachers that the authors completed. They found the following:

The five most frequently noted community activities in which at least one
of their students participated included church social activities (65.5% of the
teachers responding to tht question indicated that at least one student
participated); peer social activities not related to schools, such as going to
the movies or shopping (58.7%); church youth groups (56.3%); community sports
teams (25.0%); and church clubs (21.4%).

This is not totally surprising as other researchers have pointed out the involvement of persons with disabilities in religious groups. This is just some of the latest information. Later in the article, the authors make the following statement.

Several findings were somewhat surprising. First, the high rates of
reported participation in such activities as church youth groups suggest that
teachers of students with significant intellectual disabilities may want to
encourage their students to become involved in these opportunities if the
students and their families are members of local congregations. The high
rates of participation also suggest that teachers should assist families in
ensuring that their sons or daughters are meaningfully included in youth
activities for their church, synagogue, or faith based organization...

I have been speaking about and writing about this potential for community integration for many years now. I have always thought it would be ironic if secular groups were the ones who ultimately encouaged faith groups to be more involved in the lives of persons with disabilities. I will never forget a presentation I once made at a national conference of a secular special education organization. I presented on the potential of faith groups to be the answer for community integration of adults with cognitive disabilities. At the close of my presentation, one attendee raised her hand and said, "This is so obvious. Why haven't I ever heard about this before?" It is obvious, and there are many reasons one might not have heard of it ranging from secular bias to church inaction. As this article illustrates, however, secular organizations such as CEC might be recognizing the potential of the church. Let us pray for more research from a secular perspective which would help secularists.

This article discusses what is already occurring in the lives of children with moderate to severe disabilities. It is wonderful when the church surprises secularists with their inclusive practices. Both because it causes them to second guess the negativity sometimes evidenced toward churches in general, and because churches are making a difference in the lives of people in a significant way. A difference in which no other group has greater potential.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Church is a fantastic community recreation. Not only does it stimulate socially it lifts the heart. You can't deny that!