Members of the Global Team of 200 are participating in #27 Acts of Kindness in honor of the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary.
Today, we have the privilege of honoring the life of Anne Marie Murphy, mom to four children. Murphy was a special education teacher who worked one-on-one with student Dylan Hockley. Dylan was found wrapped in the arms of Murphy who he loved so much. His parents were quoted saying what solace they found knowing Dylan was not alone when he died, but with the teacher who meant so much to him.
We honor Anne Marie Murphy’s memory with Acts of Kindness Ideas for students with special needs and their families.
Many thanks to Lisa Woolsey, someone I am honored to call a dear friend, who collaborated on this post. Also, a huge thank you to Barbara Newman of Zeeland Christian Schools, who provided many wonderful suggestions.
- Amy Julia Becker’s Website Thin Places
- A beautiful article by Lisa Woolsey Perfectly Human: One Wonderful Life
- A Day in Our Shoes Blog by Global Team 200 friend, Lisa Lightner
- Helping Kids Include Kids with Disabilities by: Barbara Newman
- CLC Network Resource store: You can find DVDs, Family Devotionals, and Inclusion Kits
- Check out yesterday’s post Children’s Books About Understanding Disabilities. Reading through some of these books is a great family activity to educate and promote empathy and understanding.
- Woodbine House : a website for parents, children, educators and professionals full of resources.
- CLC Network: Education and support services from a Christian perspective.
Acts of Kindness to Families:
- Families who have children with special needs have to coordinate many appointments. Offer childcare for siblings who don’t have appointments.
- Respite care – give parents a night out, especially if they have a child who has round-the-clock medical needs and requires 24/7 supervision.
- Ask the family how you can be helpful; maybe it’s as simple as bringing in the mail or shoveling their sidewalk so that a wheelchair can go down the ramp, or maybe they just need someone to stay with their child while they run a quick errand.
- Recognize that families with kids with disabilities often have extra expenses – wheelchairs, hearing aids, glasses, medication, durable medical equipment (nebulizers, leg braces, splints…) that even with great insurance are often not covered.
- While churches do their best, many families are marginalized at church and not able to fully engage in worship because the church doesn’t have the resources at their disposal to accommodate children with disabilities. For some families this means they don’t attend church or are unable to attend as a family. Consider how your church can offer help to families.
- Recognize that families who have children with disabilities are often not able to do all the extracurricular activities that families with typically developing children are able to do. This can often be difficult for siblings who want a family “ski trip” for example, but skiing might not be a reality for their sibling.
- One of the most helpful things is having a friend who has a listening ear. Don’t try to fix things or offer suggestions, just listen.
- Imagine having a child with a disability and having friends and strangers offer their suggestions, try not to offer unsolicited parenting advice.
- Don’t downplay the disability, but don’t make it too much the focus of attention – it’s a fine line. Well meaning friends and families can try to be helpful by expressing their feelings that a delayed child is “totally fine” but that doesn’t help the parents who have seen numerous specialists who have confirmed that there is something that is not “totally fine”.
- Remember that the child is a wonderful gift from God and that the child has a name. The child is not a diagnosis. You shouldn’t call a child by their disability. A child may have Down’s syndrome, but isn’t a “Down’s baby”
Acts of Kindness to Children:
- When you are scheduling play dates remember classmates who have special needs. Usually with a few special directions they will be off and running, and if not, invite a parent to come along.
- Talk to your kids, remind them to include everyone in their activities on the playground, in the classroom, and in the neighborhood.
- If you offer programs or work with students in any capacity, remember to invite and make adjustments for students with special needs. Camp Geneva in Holland, MI does a great job with this, each summer they employ a special needs coordinator to allow all kids to attend a week of camp barrier-free.
- Be sensitive to the fact that some kids are very aware of their disability and others kid have no idea they’re different.
- Ask kids to participate in activities EVEN if you think they won’t want to our wouldn’t be able to. They can often do way more than you can image possible.
- If the student can’t participate in an activity, plan something in the future that the student will be able to participate in.
- Don’t be afraid to ask. Kids (and grownups, for that matter) without disabilities may be curious about an aspect of the disability. I think most people are okay if you just politely ask, “what are those braces for?” The first week of school, my daughter’s classmates all wanted to know about her hearing aids. I’d rather have them ask, so I can explain to them that “just like glasses help your eyes see better – hearing aids help your ears hear better.” This is much better than having them afraid to ask, and then spending the rest of the year whispering to each other about what they are.
- Be a friend to them. Compliment them on their strengths. Don’t patronize them. Be sincere.
Acts of Kindness to Teachers and Caregivers of those with Special Needs:
- Offer to pay the way of a teacher to a conference about special needs. Many teachers have specialized interests and hope to learn more and receive encouragement within those community’s.
- Bring a meal in for a teacher to take home and have a night off from cooking.
- Make a hand and footprint wall plaque thanking the teacher for the difference they make in your student’s life.
- Ask a teacher what they would want for their students, but was not in the budget that year. Consider meeting that need.
- Ask a teacher about assisting or covering a recess duty.
- Send in lunch or a coffee for a teacher one day.
- Bring treats in to an IEP meeting for all involved.
- Invite the teacher and their family to do a special activity; the beach, a restaurant, a cottage week-end. This can be as a group or just to gift the teacher.
- Teachers love to pick things out for their classrooms and students. Gift cards to popular teacher spots are perfect: Barnes and Noble, iPad apps, Amazon cards, Walmart, Target!
- Just a note or email saying thanks and that you are praying for the teacher is enough to encourage and lift spirits.