A father gingerly follows his young son down the aisle, looking nervous and slightly embarrassed as the pastor makes his opening remarks. The little four year old likes to roam the aisles. The church, a loving and accepting congregation, accepts this family and this young boy with autism, but is not exactly sure how to minister to the family. The family occasionally shows up for worship, but the parents haven't felt comfortable dropping their son off for Sunday School. This is an all to common occurrence, but it does not have to be.
Many families who have children with special needs, such as autism, developmental delay, or intellectual disabilities lose connection with a church body as they work to raise their children because some elements of teaching and worship are more difficult for the child (and by extension, the parents) to access.
Finding the right place of worship, with the right supports, can make all the difference. Below are area churches and congregations that provide special needs classes, activities, and supports for children and adults.
Christ United Methodist Church, Plano- This church’s Special Angels uses the support of volunteers to help families get the most out of their church-going experience. They have an afternoon respite program for families as well.
Custer Road United Methodist Church- This church has a dedicated ministry called Friday NITE Friends, which is a respite program every Friday for medically fragile children. They also have a teen program once a month.
Highland Park United Methodist Church- HPUMC has an extensive ministry to individuals with special needs including dedicated Sunday school classes, a drama program, a bi-monthly respite program (may have a waitlist), and additional social opportunities for teens and adults with special needs.
Jewish Family Services, Dallas- This organization coordinates service efforts for Jewish families with children with special needs around the Dallas area. They collaborate with area congregations, schools, and foundations in the area to provide support groups, social activities, and classes.
Lake Pointe Church, Rockwall- This church has an extensive special needs ministry called SOAR Ministries. It has Sunday morning classes, parent workshops, a Friday night respite program, a fall festival, and summer camps.
Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano- Prestonwood Baptist Church has a very large ministry for individuals with special needs including Sunday school, a respite program, a special AWANA class, and a support program for families.
St. Jude Catholic Church- There are numerous programs for individuals with special needs through the Catholic Diocese of Dallas including services for the deaf, life skills classes, and work to help individuals with special needs be active members of their congegation. One church is St. Jude Catholic Church in Allen. They have a class on Monday afternoons for children who need one-on-ones support.
St. Phillips Episcopal Church, Frisco- This church has a Sunday school class called Sparrows which is run by therapists and special education teachers.
Stonebriar Community Church- This church ministers to individuals with special needs across the lifespan. They have special classes with appropriate activities and theological teaching, accommodations to the building and playground, a buddy system to ensure that an individual gains a connection with the broader church body, and a support/prayer group for parents of children with special needs.
Lisa Brackin works to help families find educational solutions for their children. She works as an Educational Therapist, Consultant, and Diagnostician in the DFW area.