Welcome to Week Seven in our Winter series: Applying “Orange” Principles in Ministry to Families of Kids With Hidden Disabilities. Today, we’ll examine the importance of how we communicate the most important concepts of our faith to kids with disabilities and their parents. This week’s discussion covers pages 134-157 in Think Orange.
Church leaders and parents need to be especially conscious of the importance of effective communication in teaching kids with hidden disabilities Biblical truths in a manner that will inspire them to become passionate followers of Jesus Christ.
Kids (and not infrequently, parents) with hidden disabilities often have difficulty filtering out extraneous information to the point that they miss out on what’s important. One of the top two or three complaints I get from moms about their kids when they first come to our office is that they need constant reminders to do chores or complete homework because other things around the house (TV, the computer, the dog, their little brother) intrude upon their consciousness. Church leaders and volunteers are faced with the challenge of cutting through the information overload that characterizes modern American society with kids and parents with conditions that make prioritizing more difficult.
This week’s section of Think Orange outlines three principles of communication that are especially applicable in working with kids with hidden disabilities and their parents:
Say what matters: In ministering to kids with hidden disabilities, focusing on concepts and truths that are most relevant in day to day life is critical. Weaknesses in executive functioning (verbal and non-verbal working memory) common to many of the conditions our kids experience result in more difficulty applying the teaching they receive in church or at home. Repetition is one strategy for helping kids internalize the stuff they most need to know. Kids with many hidden disabilities will be more likely to internalize the Biblical principles they need to apply on a daily basis if those principles are communicated on a regular basis, across multiple settings. Church leaders have an key role in assisting parents in prioritizing the most important teaching to reinforce at home.
Say it clearer: See our discussion above. Kids with many hidden disabilities often have difficulty with processing new information. They have trouble remembering lists of information…try giving a kid with ADHD a five-step instruction and see what happens. The capacity of our kids to retain what churches and parents are teaching depends upon communicating truths with as few words as possible. Reinforcing the message in as many sensory modalities as possible (seeing, hearing, reading, touching, smelling) will also help with retention.
Say it Louder: A key component of the Orange strategy is to coordinate church and home in reinforcing important faith concepts across multiple environments. Technology will play a critical role in implementing the strategy for families of kids with hidden disabilities. Click here for a more extensive discussion of how mobile technology may be used to facilitate the mission of the local church.
Churches also need to be intentional in designing physical and online environments that remove the distractions and clutter that interfere with the ability of kids and parents to focus on the most important message. Harmony Hensley from our group has discussed this concept in earlier blog posts (here and here) and will be presenting a workshop on ministry environments at next month’s Orange Conference.
Harmony’s church hosted a Key Ministry training event this past week. The conference was held on a weekday when the main building was relatively empty. The only thing I noticed when walking around the church were visual reminders for a teaching series and a corresponding small group initiative. They reinforced their communication by removing other competing messages. Such a strategy is especially important in helping kids with hidden disabilities and their families focus on what’s important.
Next Week: Getting families to do a little bit more without inducing guilt
We’re pleased that our teammate, Harmony Hensley, will be offering two presentations at this year’s Orange Conference in Atlanta. She’ll be accompanied by Katie Wetherbee. E-mail Katie (email@example.com) or call (440) 247-0083 to meet up at the conference.
Click here for conference registration.