I’m doing a lot of thinking - but have too many thoughts to process at the moment!
So this blog is partly me processing those thoughts, and partly seeing what other people think too…
My thoughts separate into two areas, and both come out of the Faithfull Generation project from Children Matter.
What is Faithfull Generation? Put (very) simply, this looks at lifelong, resilient faith formation in children - using 5 key points. You can find out more here
In the autumn, we have a forum on one of these key points, so naturally I’ve been giving a lot more thought to it, especially with additional needs in mind.
This area is the first half of 'Encounter':Creating opportunities for children to connect with the big story of the Bible.
For some children with additional needs this happens less than for children who have no significant additional needs.
Why is this?
Without going into huge detail, here are three of the simpler reasons to explain:
Many children with additional needs cannot cope with church or the children/youth work, so family is the key place of spiritual nurture for them. Families who have children with additional needs remain one of the most under resourced areas of developing faith within the household.
Where children can access actives within the church community, many leaders are so focused on the physical act of inclusion, they forget spiritual inclusion.
Many teaching resources do not give ideas for using the information in a way that is suitable for children with additional needs.
NOTE: The work done with Messy Church for additional needs goes a long way with helping faith development, but we need a lot more provision.
So what am I thinking?
To help me understand more, I’ve done a simple google questionnaire for families who have children with additional needs, all about spiritual nurture in their home - but with only 34 responses so far, it’s not really cutting it as a piece of research!
We (The Additional Needs Alliance/Children Matter) are going to be setting up a Facebook group “Faithfull Generation - Additional Needs” to allow discussion and ideas that will support children and families more. I hope this will help Children/family workers support these families more, but will also support families as they spiritually nurture their children. I’ll post a link when it’s done.
The other area I’ve been thinking about is 'Milestones':Enabling peak experiences in the lives of children and celebrating key moments and anchor points in their life and spiritual journey.
This is an area where there is much more choice and availability of options for children who don’t have additional needs and disabilities.
It has long been recognised that there is great spiritual value in children and young people attending residential activities, camps, festivals and conferences. These are places where peak experiences happen most.
But for children who have more severe additional needs, the availability of Christian camps and residential activities are minimal, and where a camp/residential activity could be accessible, the issue is the availability of appropriate one to one care.
For Christian festivals and conferences the one to one care issue is even greater, mainly because of cost.
For the majority of festivals/conferences, the ability to provide enough one to one care is hard and financially prohibitive because the organisers have to pay for accommodation, food and expenses for every carer.
For all of the conferences, festivals, camps and residentials there is a rapidly rising number of children with additional needs and complex disabilities in need of one to one care. For conferences and festivals, many parents end up having to care for their children in the children’s programmes - or not taking them in at all. Because the child is not with a one to one carer who knows the teaching - the child’s chance of that peak experience is greatly diminished. Also, the parents who most need to be in their own teaching programme are once again missing out.
Most of these families cannot afford to bring/send a carer with them, and don’t have a church who could support them in this way.
From what I can see, we need a trust or foundation, that can pay for the cost of a carer for these children at any of these activities. But not only that - it would be great to have a register of carers with different specialities we could match up with families for specific events.
Does anything like this already exist? I can't find anything. Is it really needed? I may be going off on a tangent and it’s not what parent’s want!
I’d like to see something happen, and would be willing to be a key person in setting it up. But I don't have the time, money or expertise to do it well. I have few thoughts of who could be helpful people….but nothing set in stone.