Welcoming Children with Disabilities: A Resource List
By Kevin Johnson
(Updated November 2, 2021)
This resource list for welcoming children with disabilities will help create conversations within United Methodist faith communities for a holistic approach to worship. The inclusion of children and their families is essential for worship in our faith communities. This list will help church leadership to become more intentional in welcoming children and families affected by disabilities. The promotion of connections between churches and families of children with disabilities allows the meaningful purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t keep them away. The kingdom of heaven belongs to people like them.” Matthew 19:14 NIRV
Resources for Leaders:
2016 Book of Discipline, Social Principles ¶162.I
The Disability Ministries committee believes all people, including those with disabilities, are created in God’s image and have sacred worth. UMDMC believes that it is vital to the body of Christ to celebrate the spiritual gifts of people with disabilities and incorporate them into the life of the church. Through advocacy, education, and empowerment, they strive to fully include people with disabilities in worship, missions, leadership, and ministry – throughout The United Methodist Church.
Autism and Faith: A Journey into Community is a downloadable resource for inclusion of individuals with autism within their faith communities. The resource is written so those individuals will not feel alone. It grew out of the efforts and concerns of families and congregations who were looking for ways to include children and adults with autism in faith communities. There are articles written by family members, theologians, pastors, rabbis, people with autism, and professionals. This booklet contains facts about autism, pastoral care, religious education, strategies for supporting families, tips for laypeople, and a listing of religious and public resources. The articles are highlighted by real-life stories from several families who responded to an autism and faith survey.
The Disability and Faith Forum defines inclusive ministry as one ministry that enables, empowers, and engages all people within the worshiping community, regardless of ability. This stems from a belief that God has created us as equally valued people in God’s image. An inclusive ministry is not a program. It is not about creating a special class or a separate ministry or even identifying “the disabled” as an object of ministry. It may be summarized in the motto, “ministry by and with people with disabilities” in contrast to “ministry for people with disabilities.” It is opening the doors of the church to include those with disabilities to fully participate in the life of the body of Christ.
Developing Inclusive Ministries in Congregations provides a list of resources (PDF downloads) that supports congregations in welcoming people with disabilities.
The Vanderbilt University Kennedy Center for Excellence for Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) provides a variety of services and programs for individuals (regardless of age) and their families, professionals, and the community. Many services are integrated with research and training. Vanderbilt Kennedy Center provides downloadable tip sheets on supporting, teaching, and understanding people with specific disabilities while meeting their spiritual needs.
God calls us for a purpose. God has shown, time and again, how God calls those who seem to be the least likely candidates and uses their willingness and talents to further God’s kingdom. God, thankfully, views his creation with eyes set on possibilities. We, too, can do so with all the children who enter our congregations if we remember to keep our eyes turned the same way. In this downloadable resource from Discipleship Ministries, you will find information about:
- Who Is Coming? Identifying Populations
- Identifying the Needs of Exceptional Children
- Identifying the Needs of Parents and Families
- The Basics of Classroom Set-Up
- The Basics of Classroom Management
- The Basics of Adapting Curriculum and Activities
- The Non-Negotiables for Including Those with Disabilities and Their Families
This resource published by Baylor University discusses the role churches play in helping people of various needs better engage with their communities. It provides statistics on the number of people who have hearing disabilities and regularly attend religious services. It also explains how to incorporate American Sign Language within the organization. Lastly, it outlines guidelines to follow to strengthen hearing accessibility and better serve those with hearing aids.
This committee’s vision is to share Jesus' love by equipping and advocating access through effective communication and leadership among the diverse deaf community. They provide the UMC with a variety of applicable resources to include all people with hearing loss.
Book for Leaders:
Children and Family Ministry Handbook by Sarah Flannery (Abingdon, 2020)
- Chapter 8 discusses “Disability Awareness.” For more information on this excellent resource, view the webinar located here: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/calendar/event/ministry-with-children-children-and-family-ministry-handbook-roundtable-discussion.
- See the book review here: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/articles/book-review-children-and-family-ministry-handbook-by-sarah-flannery.
Scoot Over and Make Some Room: Creating a Space Where Everyone Belongs by Heather Avis (Zondervan, 2019)
The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities by Kathleen Deyer Bolduc (Judson Press, 2014)
Every Child Can Bloom in the Inclusive Classroom by Naomi Mitchum https://www.naomimitchum.com/booksavailablenow/every-child-can-bloom-in-the-inclusive-classroom/.
Books for Parents and Their Children:
Completely Emme: A Cerebral Palsy Story (Completely Me Series) by Dr. Justine Green (Bowker Identifier Service, 2021)
Completely Matt: An ADHD Story (Completely Me Series) by Dr. Justine Green Green (Bowker Identifier Service, 2021)
Completely Me (Completely Me Series) by Justine Green (Green Rose, 2020)
Dan and Diesel by Charlotte Hudson (Red Fox, 2006)
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson (Schwartz & Wade, 2015)
A Friend for Henry (Books About Making Friends, Children's Friendship Books, Autism Awareness Books for Kids) by Jenn Bailey (Chronicle, 2019)
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca (Innovation Press, 2019)
Just Ask! by Sonia Sotomayor (Philomel Books, 2019)
Keisha's Doors/las Puertas De Keisha: An Autism Story/una Historia De Autismo Libro Uno (Spanish and English Edition) by Marvie Ellis (Speech Kids Texas Press, 2015)
Mr. Gringle's Magical Wheelchair by Natalie Gonchar (Brown Books, 2019)
Moses Goes to a Concert by Isaac Millman (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1988)
My Friend Suhana: A Story of Friendship and Cerebral Palsy (Growing with Love) by Shaila Abdullah (Loving, Healing Press, 2019)
The Push by Patrick Gray (Tyndale Kids, 2018)
Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky (Tyndale Kids, 2018)
Susan Laughs by Jeanne Willis (Andersen Press, 2011)
Uniquely Me by Trace Wilson (Mascott Books, 2016)