You have a wonderful opportunity as a disability specialist to “help facilitate increased participation and inclusion of Church members with disabilities.” (First Presidency Statement on Disabilities)
You do not need to be an expert to be a disability specialist. A willingness to learn about available resources, have conversations with families and ward/stake leaders, and go to the Lord in prayer will help you fulfill your calling.
Here are some ideas and resources to help you get started.
Familiarize yourself with the resources available to members with disabilities.
- Section 21.1.26 Members with Disabilities in Handbook 2: Administering in the Church
- The Church Disability Website, including a list of disability categories.
- Accessible Materials for Members with Disabilities available online or for purchase from the online store.
Meet with Church leaders to let them know you are here to help
- Let ward and stake leaders know that you are available to help them as they support members with disabilities and their families.
- Offer to help teachers include and support every student in their classrooms and other activities.
- Work with ward leaders to help each member have a calling or a responsibility (remember that parents may appreciate a calling away from their family member with a disability).
- Look for ways to let ward or stake members and leaders know about your willingness to help.
- Offer to visit Ward Council and meet with priesthood and auxiliary leaders to help them get to know those who have disabilities and their families.
- Discuss ways to give a member with a disability, “a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with ‘the good word of God’.” (President Hinckley, 1999)
Talk with the individual and family members
- Remember that members with a disability and their families are generally the best resource on their disability. They know about the strengths and challenges that come with a specific disability and can help you identify if help is needed.
- Speak with individuals and families about their needs. They may need physical, spiritual, and emotional support as well as rest from their daily routine.
As you meet with individuals, families, and leaders, you will come to understand where the greatest needs are as well as the strengths and gifts members are willing to share. The Lord can help you know what to do as you get to know members you serve, become familiar with Church resources, turn to the scriptures, and pray.