Immigrant Children with Special Needs
Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the One who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” Genesis 16:13 (NLT) You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. Psalm 139:13-14 (NLT) The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see the very clearly. They look like trees walking around.” Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly.Mark 8:24-25 (NLT)
Casper (name changed) first came to church when he was about 6 years old with his grandmother. Casper was non-verbal with everyone except her. He had a lot of issues, one of them being classified “in the Spectrum”.
No sooner had the service started when Casper slipped from the pew and rolled across the floor about four pews down. He rolled back, climbed back in the pew and stood up to look out the window. He laid down in the pew and stared up at the ceiling fans, rolled over and looked at the bottom of the pew. This continued throughout the service, except for when the hymns were being sung.
As soon as the dismissal with blessing had been given, Casper and his grandmother headed for the door. She apologized profusely for his behavior and was very thankful that he had made no noises during the service. I assured her that it was not a problem for me. Then she introduced me to him. He stood stone-still, ramrod-straight, his arms locked at his sides.
Slowly, I knelt down in front of him so that our eyes were even with each other. As I called his name softly, he looked me in the eye, then looked away. I folded my hands together in front of him and told him, “I am so glad you came and I hope you come back. I promise that I will not try to shake your hand or hug you. When you are ready for that, please let me know.” Casper nodded his head.
For a while, each Sunday that Casper came followed the same routine as before, until one particular Sunday. Casper managed to sit still through a whole prayer. When time came for passing the peace, he quickly came up the aisle to me and thrust out his hand to shake mine. I grasped his hand and one pump, up and down. He released my hand and ran back to his grandmother.
For several months, Casper was not in church with his grandmother. When they came back, though he squirmed in his seat, he remained seated. As soon as I announced passing the peace, Casper sprinted up the aisle, jerked to a stop in front of me and held out his arms. That was one of the sweetest hugs I have ever had.
Later, Casper’s grandmother and I were talking. She said Casper enjoyed coming and listening to me because, in his words, “She sees me”.
At times, children are seen as a problem, not a blessing. Children with special needs carry a far harsher stigma. They are seen as cursed whether we will admit it or not. Their noise, their drool, their energy or their special equipment that might scrape the paint or damage the carpet/pew cushion are not welcomed. The children are viewed, not truly seen. Sometimes, they are feared. The biggest problem with this is that they know. They sense the emotion(s), the attitudes of other; and have at times, no way to express this except by expending energy or making noise.
All of us want to be seen, want to be loved, want to be accepted. Perhaps the first step is for us to pray that our hearts as well as our eyes be healed so that our vision is restored and cleared.
PRAYER: God give us courage to take the time to see these children as You do, fearfully and wonderfully made.
— Joan Fischer