Calling all Ward or Stake Disability Specialists!

Did you know that Section 21.1.26 of Handbook 2: Administering the Church states that:

"The bishopric or stake presidency may call a ward or stake disability specialist to help individuals and families."

Most people don't. Regardless I have heard that there are some ward and stake disability specialists out there and I would love to meet some of them to find out what they are doing. If you are in that role or know someone who is, please take a moment to let me know.

In addition, I would love to hear what you think of the idea of a ward or stake disability specialist:

  • Is this position needed in your ward or stake?
  • What responsibilities would that person have?
  • What training would be needed for someone in this calling?

Any and all comments are appreciated, even if it is just a thumbs up!

9 Comments

Thumbs up

Oh--you already know I give it 2 thumbs up!

Mary P.

disability specialists

What a great idea. Our stake does not have one (that I know of) but I think it would be wonderful if they did. More and more families are facing issues with children iwth disabililtes and it would be great to have the support of someone called by the preisthood

Children with special needs within the stake

I am the Stake Primary Presdent for a stake in Northern Colorado. I have worked with special needs children for several years so when I was called I felt compelled to really focus on children in the primaries of my stake that have special needs. I have six wards within my stake and each ward has several children with some type of special need.

I look at each case individually and develope a program that would meet the needs of that child. The program is simple but with the needs of the child in mind. Each child should feel loved, important, and should want to be a part of primary. I've learned that parents need to be a part of the process and if the parent is not on board or is in denial then we don't proceed with any goals.

As each child is so individual, each plan is individual. The primary presidents call me whenever a new child moves in or someone seems disruptive and needs help refocusing. The primary president speaks with the family to get permission for me to come and observe. I observe and the parents and I visit about what we can do to help the child learn to love being a part of primary. Sometimes it is as simple as handing the child something to do (ie. playdough) during a lesson to help with concentration, to having a teacher called for that child to help the child transition through primary class, sharing time and music time.

I've done so many different things that listing them all would be too much and like I've stated each child is so different and needs different ideas to help them.

I do believe that there should be some training for each child and the advocate called to help the child. I go and work with the child and teacher in their ward. This helps me get to know the child and the new teacher. The support to the teacher must remain constant. New materials, and ideas should be given to the teacher. Training should happen as often as the teacher needs, or desires.

Sometimes the solutions are only needed for a short time. Brainstorming ideas with other special needs teachers is very helpful. Having lots of ideas to pick from is very helpful because what works one week doesn't necessarily work the next week.

I am willing to answer questions, help with ideas to help children,or share more about what I do in my stake.

adult disability

I had not heard of the calling being described. I have heard of special needs mutual which occurs on a regional level where we live in the Salt Lake valley. My daughter, who suffered a stroke at age 7 is now 27. She attended special needs mutual til about age 20, then lost interest becasue she was older than the kids used as friends in the program. She no longer attends church because the stroke "brain injury" has left her with communication disorders that cause her struggle in a lecture type situation. When there is only one individual in a ward at this age with this type of disablity, it is difficult to assign someone to deal with it in a "calling" scenerio.
I do think it would be helpful for the church to establish a regional database of disabled adult members. This would allow families like us to find other families with a similar circumstance. Our adult children need to have some kind of social enviornment that would allow them to interact with each other and thier families. Right now, our daughter is just a recluse that only interacts with her parents (us).

Regional database

I totally agree with you. I am in the North Davis area and recently I have heard from 2 different people that the Special Needs Mutual program will be discontinued as of December. It has helped my son but with it disappearing I wonder. I am the mother of 5 special needs children (all adults now). I lived in Hawaii and California where there was no SNM program and when I moved to Utah I loved it and found it beneficial. My oldest child is hearing impaired so did not fit in with the hearing nor the deaf members...sitting in a big room (chapel) he couldn't absorb everything. I agree calling a person for just one person can be difficult I partially agree but at the same time, have experienced that when I lived in California and I only had my youngest who has Down syndrome.

My concern now is the friendships that were formed at mutual will be lost. What about Special Needs Scouts? I was told that if they are part of a regular troop they can not try for Eagle Scout as they would with the SNM. What about attending dances with "normal" single adults?? Who would want to really dance with them? My son has difficulties understanding why "normal girls" ignore him. Being with their peers is beneficial (as welll as associating with "normal" people. I think many people who have never experienced a sacrament meeting given by these Special Needs people are missing out on so much. It may be difficult to understand them at times but your heart hears them. I have cried at every Sacrament meeting I have attended. My son who would not even sit up front the first time he attended one with the group now bares his testimony with my help. Several months ago he gave his testimony in our home ward. Months later I am hearing people tell me how much they loved his talk, and although I translated for him they knew it was coming from him I am sad that so many people will miss out on this

That makes sense.

As a professional of three decades in the field, with many degrees, credentials, and a few publications under my name, I LOVE doing this kind of work outside of the Church. I would love doing it for the Church as well. Moreover, there is an increasing need for this in today's world.

In our Branch there are

In our Branch there are several people with disabilities, ranging in age from child through to adult and ranging in severity/degree of disability, including Autism, Asperger's, Intellectual Impairment, Mental Illness (Obsessive Compulsive disorder, Schizophrenia, Depression).

A calling of this sort would be fantastic, however, it seems that I am the only one who is well versed in these disabilities and has any qualifications as well as life experience.

Life's stages create different needs for these Special People

I am the mother of a 20 year old daughter with special needs. I am a strong advocate of inclusion for as long as possible for special needs children especially in the church. We tried Special needs primary when my daughter was younger and she didn't like it, she wanted to be included with everyone else. When they are in primary for most of these children it is best to have inclusion and create buddies within each ward or branch of other normal children. This gives them the opportunity to learn love and compassion for differences at an early age. The siblings naturally in most cases love and support each other anyway, but need to have the opportunity to develop their own spirituality without being a caregiver in a church setting. They are placed in a caregiver setting at home out of default all of the time. As a person ages their needs change and the buddies need to become adults, because the Adolescent years are more difficult for all children and a coach should always be present with the special needs individuals and non special needs individuals to manage the differences that go along with development and puberty. That is why the special needs mutual program works so well, it is loaded with coaches/leaders. My daughter is still interested in Special needs mutual but I am not sure she will always be interested in it because of the age difference of the friends. She is interested in callings and being needed within the ward just as everyone else is, she loves the interaction of the ward members and their children. I think a specialist is a great idea, but this is not a calling you can give to just anyone it would have to be with someone who has life experience or education or an extreme of natural compassion, there is more need for respite for the families than you can imagine and it is very difficult to share your life's burden with others. I think with adequate research and guidelines that this could be a very rewarding calling with extreme eternal benefits for all, there are resources in the communities that could be utilized and shared with families that may not know they exist. I give the idea a thumbs up! But do your research first.
D

Specialist

I think that's a great idea to have a calling as the specialist in every ward or branch! I myself have been to several wards and branches ever since 1988. I moved around alot becaus of the interpreters for the deaf. It would be a great idea to have a specialist in your ward. That person could be responsible for schedules, transportation if needed, phone contacts with deaf and deaf blind members, and interpreters. For example: one deaf client would meet the specialist, and then he/she contacts an interpreter, so they can communicate at their meetings.

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