What families of teens and young adults with developmental disabilities need from church…

Vanderbilt Guide 2I’ve been following the work of Erik Carter for several years…Erik is on faculty in the Department of Education at Vanderbilt University, and is probably responsible for more research on the impact of intellectual disabilities on church attendance and practice than anyone else in the field. I had an opportunity to meet up with Erik for breakfast last week while passing through Nashville during which Erik helped catch me up with some work recently completed by his team of investigators from the Vanderbilt University Kennedy Center. Today, I’ll share the results of a two year project of families in Tennessee with adolescents or young adults with developmental disabilities focused on “faith and flourishing.”

Nearly 500 parents of adolescents or young adults with developmental disabilities were asked two questions about fourteen supports that churches could provide to their family…

How helpful would the support be to you in raising your child with autism or an intellectual disability?

Is this particular support now available to you through your church?

Vanderbilt guide 4The results of the study are presented in an excellent guide for church leaders that contains practical solutions for meeting the needs expressed by parents surveyed, accompanied by links to other helpful resources. We’ll look at some of the most interesting findings…

  • 70% of parents said they’d like their churches to undertake disability awareness initiatives, 10% reported that their churches engaged in awareness initiatives.
  • 71% of parents reported that support groups offered through church would be helpful, while 12% reported their churches make such groups available.
  • 68% of parents desired help from their churches in advocating for their kids within schools, service systems and health care, while 6% reported their churches offered advocacy assistance.
  • 61% of parents expressed a desire to receive respite care through their churches, while 8% reported that respite was available through church.

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center offers disability-related training to current and future religious and spiritual leaders and educators, supports individuals with disabilities and their families as they give expression to their religion or spirituality and encourages disability service providers to consider the religious and spiritual interests of the individuals they serve. I’d encourage our readers to explore the resources they provide to church leaders, service providers and families.

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KM Logo UpdatedKey Ministry is pleased to make available our FREE consultation service to pastors, church leaders and ministry volunteers. Got questions about launching a ministry that you can’t answer…here we are! Have a kid you’re struggling to serve? Contact us! Want to kick around a problem with someone who’s “been there and done that?” Click here to submit a request!

About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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