Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is our greatest example of helping others feel included in the gospel and reaching out to the “one.” Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin explained:
“He was surrounded by multitudes and spoke to thousands, yet He always had concern for the one. ‘For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost’ (Matthew 18:11), He said. ‘What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?’ (Luke 15:4).
“This instruction applies to all who follow Him. We are commanded to seek out those who are lost. We are to be our brother’s keeper. We cannot neglect this commission given by our Savior. We must be concerned for the one” (“Concern for the One,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 18).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught: “As members of the Church, we are all on this journey. Our age and experience will always be varied, as will our languages, cultures, and degrees of gospel understanding. But whatever your circumstances, we welcome you. As the Apostle Paul said, ‘Ye are . . . [now] fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God’ (Ephesians 2:19), and that means we are in this together” (“What I Wish Every New Member Knew,” Ensign, Oct. 2006, 10).
We all have the responsibility to welcome and include everyone, including those with disabilities. There are many ways you can reach out to those in your congregation who have a disability or who are caregivers of a loved one with a disability. Sometimes all it takes is a small, genuine gesture to help someone feel like he or she is known, loved, and a part of the ward family. Here are a few suggestions of small things that, when done with genuine love and sincerity, can go a long way to help someone with a disability feel included:
- Reach out. Often, because we are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, we do not reach out to those with disabilities. You can start by greeting members of your ward with disabilities and their families. By showing a genuine interest in getting to know them, friendships can be created, burdens can be lightened, and everyone can feel included.
- Invite. Extend a personal invitation to members with disabilities and their family members. Let them know of upcoming activities or changes to meeting schedules. If you have noticed they have not been to church in a while, extend a personal invitation for them to come with you.
- Seek to understand. Seek to understand an individual’s needs with sensitivity and compassion before offering to help. As you reach out and build a relationship of trust and friendship, you may feel prompted to offer help.
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Concern for the One,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 17–20
- Gérald Caussé, “Ye Are No More Strangers,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 49–51
- Marianne Holman Prescott, “10 Ways to Help Those with Disabilities Feel a Sense of Belonging,” Church News, Feb. 16, 2018
- “10 Simple Ways to Create a Sense of Belonging for Children and Adults with Disabilities,” Church News, Feb. 9, 2018
Church leaders have a sacred responsibility to care for every member of their flock and to reach out to “the one.” This includes reaching out to members with disabilities and their caregivers. When the motivation behind learning about others comes from a place of love and compassion, wonderful things can occur. Church leaders and teachers should keep the following in mind as they work with those who have disabilities and strive to increase awareness and understanding of disabilities:
- Welcome. Seek ways to help individuals with disabilities feel loved, accepted, and included.
- Provide opportunities. Prayerfully identify meaningful opportunities for members with disabilities to serve. Meet with the individuals and their caregivers to help identify skills and talents. Discuss with them ways those skills and talents can be best utilized. Everyone has something they can contribute.
- Identify specific needs. Speak with individuals and families about their needs. They may need physical, spiritual, and emotional support as well as rest from their daily routine. 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 where help is needed. You can gain much insight by asking individuals, their family members, and other caregivers respectful questions such as the following:
- “What would be helpful for me to know about you so that I can do my best to help make your experience at church more meaningful?”
- “What would you like me to know about your child?”
- “What are things that you have found to be helpful in the past that I could try to implement at church?”
- Foster understanding. After consulting with members with disabilities about what they feel comfortable having you share with others, help ward members understand the individuals’ disabilities and needs. This can help ward members gain greater compassion, understanding, and inspiration about how to provide support.
- Identify resources. 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. Where appropriate, identify community, ward, and stake resources available to assist with those needs.
- Counsel together. As appropriate, invite individuals, their parents, or other caregivers to discuss with ward leaders their strengths as well as challenges and obstacles that may keep them from fully participating in the ward. Help parents connect with other parents who have children with similar disabilities.
- Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 21.1.26, “Members with Disabilities”
- Jeffrey R. Holland, “Bearing One Another’s Burdens,” Ensign or Liahona, June 2018, 24–29
- Lynn Parsons, “Reaching Out to Those with Disabilities—and Their Families,” Ensign or Liahona, Feb. 2015, 48–51
- Camille West, “Straining to Hear Each Sunday? Meetinghouse Listening Devices Dramatically Improve Participation,” Church News, Sept. 15, 2017
- Laurie Wilson Thornton, “The Mathematics of Multiple Disabilities,” Ensign, Oct. 1991, 64–69
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explained: “We may not be able to alter the journey, but we can make sure no one walks it alone. Surely that is what it means to bear one another’s burdens” (“Bearing One Another’s Burdens,” Ensign, June 2018, 27).
One of the best ways to minister and help members with disabilities and their families and other caregivers is by being a friend. Often these individuals and families carry great physical, financial, and emotional burdens. Having a friend or someone they can rely on in the ward may be very important in helping them remain active in the Church despite the overwhelming challenges they face. When we become a friend, we can also help bear one another’s burdens (see Mosiah 18:8–9).
The Lord can help you know what to do as you get to know the members to whom you minister, become familiar with their needs, and turn to the scriptures and pray. 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 often help you identify where help is needed.
- Russell M. Nelson, “Ministering with the Power and Authority of God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 68–75
- Bonnie H. Cordon, “Becoming a Shepherd,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2018, 74–76
A bishopric or stake presidency may call a ward or stake disability specialist to help individuals and families who have disabilities or who are caregivers of those with disabilities (see Handbook 2: Administering the Church , 21.1.26). The role of a disability specialist is to help facilitate increased participation and inclusion of Church members with disabilities; however, the responsibility for caring for others is the responsibility of everyone (see Mosiah 18: 8–9).
- Disability Specialist: How to Get Started in Your Calling
- “New Information for Disability Specialists Added to LDS.org,” Church News, Feb. 8, 2012
- Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 21.1.26, “Members with Disabilities”
- “What is a disability specialist and how they can help you and your family,” Church News, Sept. 28, 2018
“Everything the Savior did throughout His earthly ministry was motivated by love—His love for His Father and His love for all of us. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, we can be filled with this same love as we strive to be true followers of Christ (see John 13:34–35; Moroni 7:48; 8:26). With Christlike love in our hearts, we will seek every possible way to help others learn of Christ and come unto Him. Love will be the reason and motivation for our teaching” (Teaching in the Savior’s Way , 6).
Individuals with disabilities should be given the opportunity to learn, teach, and serve to the best of their abilities. As a teacher, it is important that you establish an atmosphere of love and inclusion. Seek to understand those you teach and their individual needs. President M. Russell Ballard counseled: “May I urge each member of the Church, when you are serving as a teacher, to remember that every human soul is precious to our Father in Heaven, for we are all his children. God’s children are entitled to be taught the truths of the gospel in clear and understandable terms so that the Spirit can confirm the truths of the gospel to them.”
Individuals with disabilities may require accommodations in the classroom to help them learn and feel included. Talk with the individuals about accommodations they may need to fully participate in gospel learning. When teaching children or youth, you may also want to counsel with their parent, guardian, or caregiver about any accommodations they may need. By making simple adaptations to the classroom, you can promote learning for all. Some examples of simple accommodations include the following:
- Use closed captions when showing videos.
- Allow extra time to respond to questions.
- Let students work in small groups.
- Make large-print materials available for students to read.
- Use a variety of ways to present lessons, including pictures, objects, photos, and videos.
- For students who are nonverbal, offer choices between two items to allow them to indicate an answer by pointing or eye gaze.
- Break down assignments or requests into small steps. For example, instead of asking someone to get ready for a prayer, you might break the task into the smaller steps of folding arms, bowing head, and closing eyes. Be prepared to use repetition in teaching.
- Use teaching ideas such as role playing, singing, object lessons, and other visual aids to illustrate difficult concepts. Break down difficult concepts into simple pieces.
- Prayerfully select opportunities for members with disabilities to participate in lessons. Examples might include selecting the music, reading a scripture, holding a picture, sharing a testimony, and answering questions.
Teaching Strategies for Children with Disabilities
- Good Teaching Is Good Teaching
- Attention Getter
- State Objective
- Attention Span
- Using Visual Aids
- Wait Time
- Music and Drama
- Using a Schedule to Help Reduce Anxiety
- Positive Behavior Strategies
Food allergies and reactions to food can have a significant effect on a person’s physical and emotional health and ability to participate in Church meetings and activities.
What is a food allergy?
A food allergy is a condition in which exposure to a specific food causes the body to mistakenly treat the food as a harmful substance. This reaction may trigger anaphylaxis, a reaction that can result in death. Globally, 240 million to 550 million people may suffer from allergies to some foods, but the most common allergies are to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, milk, eggs, wheat, and soy.
At church, adults, youth, and children are often exposed to food allergens in these ways:
- Homemade food items served at Church functions
- Unlabeled food items, such as bakery items or home-baked goods
- Cross-contact with food containing allergens
- Preparing, passing, or partaking of sacrament bread that contains allergens or has had cross-contact with allergens
- Treats, candy, or other food items that contain allergens
How do I recognize a food allergy reaction and anaphylaxis?
Look for the following symptoms, which could be mild or severe:
- Shortness of breath, wheezing, or repetitive cough
- Pale or blue skin, fainting, weak pulse, or dizziness
- Tight throat, hoarseness, or trouble breathing or swallowing
- Significant swelling of the tongue or lips
- Hives over the body, widespread redness, or itching
- Repetitive vomiting or severe diarrhea
- Feeling that something bad is about to happen, anxiety, or confusion
- Drop in blood pressure
- Itchy or runny nose or sneezing
- Itchy mouth
- Mild nausea or discomfort
What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a sudden, severe, and potentially fatal allergic reaction. Symptoms can occur within minutes or hours after exposure or ingestion. Without early administration of emergency medication called epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) along with emergency care, the result can be fatal. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Airway constriction.
- Extremely low blood pressure.
- Shock (anaphylactic shock).
- Suffocation from swelling in the throat.
What is the best treatment for a reaction?
Epinephrine is the most commonly used medication to treat severe reactions and anaphylaxis. It is available by prescription as a self-injectable device (such as EpiPen, Auvi-Q, or Adrenaclick). Most individuals with food allergies carry one of these devices with them. If members have a food allergy, leaders and teachers should discuss possible treatment with them or their parents in anticipation of an allergic reaction.
How do I respond to an anaphylaxis reaction?
If someone is experiencing anaphylaxis:
- Inject epinephrine immediately (if available).
- Call 911 and request an ambulance with epinephrine.
- Call parents of children and youth after steps 1 and 2.
If symptoms do not improve or if symptoms return, more doses of epinephrine can be given about five minutes after the previous dose. Transport the person to an emergency facility, and stay there at least four hours, because symptoms may return. Do not depend on antihistamines. They will help only with skin issues and may cover any anaphylaxis reactions, causing a delay in the administration of epinephrine and possible irreversible effects, including death. If you are unsure what to do, give the person epinephrine and call 911. If someone with a food allergy feels ill, never leave him or her alone.
How do I help prevent food allergy exposures and anaphylaxis?
Following the guidelines below will help keep those with food allergies safe in a church setting:
- Take all food allergies seriously, because they can be fatal.
- If members have food allergies, communicate with them and with the parents of children and youth.
- Know what foods they must avoid, and determine if there are safe substitutes.
- Inform them when food will be present.
- Avoid serving home-baked or bakery goods. Such goods are usually at a higher risk of cross-contact and do not always have ingredients listed on the label.
- Label homemade food with ingredients.
How can those with food allergies safely partake of the sacrament?
Leaders and teachers should be sensitive to the physical and emotional impact food allergies have on an individual and should develop ways to safely include people in all activities and worship—including partaking of the sacrament. The guidelines below may help:
- Members with food allergies, such as gluten intolerance or other conditions, should inform a member of the bishopric and discuss with him what adaptations may be appropriate for the sacrament.
- Members may provide their own allergen-free bread or other broken bread-like substitute. Members may bring a pre-broken bread substitute in a sealed plastic bag and give it to a priesthood holder to place on a separate tray.
- During the sacrament, the priesthood holders break the regular bread but do not open the bags or touch the allergen-free bread substitute. The prayer to bless the bread is offered in the normal way.
- The bishopric sees that the priesthood holders can identify members to whom the allergen-free item should be passed. Those who prepare, administer, and pass the sacrament should receive training on how to avoid cross contamination.
- Depending on the number of individuals involved or specific circumstances, the bishopric may modify the procedure.
How do I avoid cross contamination?
- Understand what cross-contact is and how to avoid it. Cross-contact happens when one food touches another food or surface. As a result, each food or surface then contains small amounts of the food allergen. These amounts are so small that they usually cannot be seen, but they can be transmitted onto food generally considered safe. Even very small amounts of food allergens have the potential to cause a life-threatening allergic reaction.
- During the sacrament, avoid cross contamination by following the guidelines below:
- Properly wash hands with soap and water before preparing the sacrament (hand sanitizer will not remove any food allergens).
- Allergen-free bread should be handled first before working with bread with allergens in it. If you have touched bread with allergens in it, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before touching allergen-free items.
- All allergen-free items should be placed on a separate allergen-free tray.
- If a member brings a pre-broken allergen-free bread substitute in a sealed container, do not open the container; place it on the separate allergen-free tray.
For more information on food allergies, anaphylaxis, and how to recognize and respond to allergic reactions, see the following resources:
Printable Posters and Signs
- Recognize and Respond to Anaphylaxis
- Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan
- How to Avoid Cross-Contact
- Plan De Atención De Emergencias De Alergias Alimentarias Y Anafilaxia