Months ago I received an email from a reader in Peoria, Arizona. She mentioned a column I wrote nearly a year ago about a family that felt so out of place at their church. The sudden loud noises often startled the parents’ child, who had a disability, and church members couldn’t understand the child’s behavior issues.
In her most recent email, the same reader suggested I contact her 12,000-congregant church, because she said they had a special program for children with disabilities. So I telephoned to learn more.
‘We offer a special (Sunday morning) class called Christ Likeness in Challenged Kids (CLICK),’ said Melody Logan, early childhood director of Christ’s Church of the Valley in Peoria, Arizona. ‘It started because of a single person who had a passion. We had a child that couldn’t be mainstreamed, and this person volunteered to start a class just for that one child.’
CLICK has grown to more than thirty children. Having the class means that quite a few parents and their other children can become part of a congregation. The class itself is mainstreamed with the other children for the first twenty minutes before breaking off into its own group. Then the CLICK children are taught adapted material from the same curriculum as the other children. Families in the community usually learn of CLICK through word of mouth.
And the class seems to be working. ‘We’ve received letters from parents telling us how thrilled they are to find a place that wants to provide a special program for their child, and how it has enabled them to become part of a church family again,’ said Logan.
At their former churches, said Logan, many families were told their special needs child couldn’t be accommodated. Many smaller churches don’t have the resources, facilities, or the impassioned people to run what can be an emotionally challenging ministry.
‘We also provide childcare during weeknights so the parents of these children can participate in a small group,’ said Logan. ‘Along with everyone else, these parents recently attended classes on strengthening their marriage.’
Though having programs for children with certain disabilities, this particular church doesn’t offer anything yet for adults with disabilities. This may change as the CLICK children age, said Logan.
As for the column reader emailing me, she learned about the program through a friend who has a child with autism.