Churches have four ways to support families with special needs, based on information provided by researchers.
The Baptist Press said a research article posted by California State University in Los Angeles Professor Robin Dodds, who specializes in helping families with Autism Spectrum Disorder children, reveal four areas of support that could be addressed by churches. These four areas are emotional, navigational, informational, and spiritual support.
"They need to be reminded of God's love and his good purpose for them in this season of their life. As their friends and church members, we can be an asset to them and help bring them hope. But how can we do that wisely and not be harmful in how we help?" the Baptist Press said.
The outlet pointed out that providing emotional support could be done through the Holy Scriptures, especially those "that emphasize the promises of God, give wisdom, and bring hope." Emotional support also can be provided by acknowledging the suffering and challenges of these families, by listening to them, and empathizing with them.
"We can also acknowledge their suffering and challenges while listening and not giving advice. We shouldn't immediately share our experiences, but instead demonstrate empathy. Looking at the Gospels, we see Jesus doing this again and again. He listened to those who came to him," the Christian outlet emphasized.
In addition, emotional support could also be provided through peer-to-peer support groups, as well as, being proactive in identifying ways to provide their actual needs.
Navigational support, the Baptist Press explained, pertain to access to information that these families need in so far as the therapies they have to undertake for their child with special needs. Providing them options and tools to meet the special needs of their child.
On the other hand, informational support pertains to having a community that actually understands and supports families of children with special needs. A church that also provides a listing of reputable organizations they can approach regarding the questions they face in rearing their child with special needs.
This need for informational support comes in micro and macro levels where the former deal with a specific situation and the latter on a more general situation of being like any parent.
Obviously, the need for spiritual support is the main role of churches and parents of children with special needs need this most considering they have "additional struggles." Creating a support group in church composed of parents of children with special needs would be most valuable to those who are new parents of children with special needs.
"As older parents, they will have important insights to share of the faithfulness of God. They can tell about how they have seen the Lord work through prayer, the Word, and faithful training in the lives of their children. Fundamentally, they can come alongside them as friends and provide a listening ear. They can pray for and with their friends and seek to encourage them with scriptures that God has used in their own lives," the Baptist Press stressed.