Do you know any kids who have disabilities? Maybe a boy in your church has autism, and that makes it hard for him to talk with other people. Maybe you know a girl who uses a wheelchair to get around. Maybe YOU have a hard time hearing or learning.
When you look at these kids and yourself, what do you see? Do you mostly see a disability? Or do you see a friend and a child of God? What do you think Jesus sees?
Fingers and Brains
Look at your fingers under a magnifying glass. Can you see your fingerprint? It’s different from EVERY other fingerprint in the whole world. Your brain is like that too. If we could make “brainprints,” you’d see that no two brains are alike! God made you unique, one of a kind. You are God’s special creation, and that includes everything you can do well or can’t do at all. God has stamped his image on every one of us.
Do you sometimes forget how important you are to God? Here’s a way to remind yourself every day: write “The image of God” on a piece of paper and tape it to your bathroom mirror. Every time you look in the mirror, you’ll see God’s special creation looking back at you!
Having a disability can be really frustrating, especially when other kids don’t understand how hard it is. Try these things to help you understand:
- Have a friend or parent tape your thumbs to the palms of your hands. Try to eat, play a video game, dress yourself, or even read a book!
- Put earplugs in your ears. Try to talk to your friends or play a game or talk on the phone.
- Find an old pair of sunglasses and tape wax paper to the lenses. Put them on and try to read a book or play a game.
When you’re done, you can take the tape off your hands, the plugs out of your ears, or the wax paper off your glasses. But think about what it would be like if you had to live with a disability every day. What things would be hard for you? What might you need help with? How would you feel? If you have a disability, talk to your friends about what it’s like. But also talk about all the ways you and your friends are the same!
In 1962, after discovering that many people with disabilities were not active or had no chance to play sports, Eunice Kennedy Shriver organized a camp for a group of 100 people where they played volleyball and kickball. They could ride horses and swim. From this camp the idea for the Special Olympics was born. The first games were held in Chicago in 1968 with 1,000 athletes from the United States and Canada. Today there are more than 2 million athletes from more than 160 countries who participate in 30 Olympic-type summer and winter sports.Do you know people who participate in the Special Olympics? Go to one of their meets and cheer them on. It’s a lot of fun, and they will love to see you there. For more information, visit www.specialolympics.org.
Amazing “Helping” Inventions
If you were an inventor, what would you invent? A candy machine that never runs out? A homework robot?
Or would you do what some people do and invent things that help people with disabilities?
Here are some great inventions that made life easier for people with disabilities all over the world.
The Braille Alphabet. When he was only 15, Louis Braille invented a system that helped people who were blind like him to read books. He used raised dots to represent letters of the alphabet. They looked like this:People who are blind use their fingertips to feel the raised dots. Make your own Braille alphabet by using a dull pencil to poke a piece of paper until raised dots appear (put a stack of newspaper under the paper for padding, and try not to poke completely through the paper). Make a few different Braille letters. Can you tell them apart with your eyes closed?
Hearing Aids. These tiny machines fit inside your ear to help you hear. Older people need them as they start to lose their hearing, but some kids who have hearing impairments use them too. Before hearing aids were invented, some people used “ear trumpets” to help them hear. Hearing aids are much better, don’t you think? The Wheelchair. This invention has been around for hundreds of years, but today wheelchairs have some pretty cool features. People have invented wheelchairs that can “climb” up stairs, go super-fast for racing, and help people stand up. Some inventors are even working on a wheelchair that you can operate just by thinking! An electrode (wire) placed on your scalp could let your brain tell the wheelchair what to do—without your body making any motions at all. Amazing!
Peter loves VeggieTales and Disney movies. He also has autism. He can’t talk, and he doesn’t respond when people say something to him. If his mom and dad turn off one of his videos to take him to the swimming pool, he gets upset because he doesn’t know they’re taking him somewhere special. Peter cries sometimes, and his parents do too.
When Peter was old enough, his mom and dad wanted to send him to a Christian school. The teachers talked to his parents about how they could help him learn and get along with the other children.Peter’s mom said, “We don’t know how much Peter will be able to learn. We don’t know if he will ever know about Jesus and who he is, but we do know that in this school the boys and girls will be Jesus to him.”
That’s what Jesus helps us to do. He helps you and me show his love to everyone. How can YOU be Jesus to someone with a disability? Kids with disabilities are a lot more like you than they are different from you. They love their families, they like to laugh and have fun. Being called names hurts them as much as it would hurt you. It also hurts when they feel left out or ignored. The best way to help is to be a friend. That’s something everyone can do!