Launch of Special Needs Ministry at Visitation Church, Seremban

The launch of the Special Needs Ministry by Fr Lawrence Ng was held at the Church of the Visitation, Seremban on Saturday, Oct 24 and was attended by 120 particpants.

Nov 06, 2015

By Cheryl Buckley
The launch of the Special Needs Ministry by Fr Lawrence Ng was held at the Church of the Visitation, Seremban on Saturday, Oct 24 and was attended by 120 particpants.

This was followed by testimonies of three parents. The church choir sang You Raise Me Up especially for this occasion, as well as a song by Johnny Orr, We’ll Get By, which was written from the perspective of an autistic child.

The afternoon session was given by experts sharing their experiences and knowledge of assisting special children develop the skills that will help them integrate more fully within our communities.

Betsy Louis, the Special Needs Ministry’s coordinator explained that, “The Special Needs Ministry has the objective of ensuring that every ‘special needs’ child in our community is given the opportunity to learn about Jesus’ gifts to us. To this end, we are introducing catechism classes for these children, starting in January 2016 that will prepare them – in their own time – for receiving the sacraments of Reconciliation, the Eucharist and Confirmation.”

Participants were left in no doubt about the love and commitment of the parents who spoke of the daily challenges of caring for children with special needs. Like any child, ‘special needs’ children need love, guidance and correction! How to communicate these to children with physical, sensory or intellectual disabilities introduces additional dimensions to parenting that are not always fully understood or appreciated in the wider community.

One participant reflected, saying, “It’s easier said than done. If we’re honest, we struggle sometimes with including these children in our communities. Do you think we have never been impatient or censorous of a ‘special child’ at a church service? Yet, Jesus welcomes all God’s children. We’ve still a lot to learn.”

Adeline Khu and Agnes from the ‘Faith and Light’ group, Church of the Assumption, Kuala Lumpur, spoke of their experiences of over 13 years in sharing and caring for special needs’ children and their parents.

Their community, one of over 1,500 worldwide, offers support, involvement and integration through well organized activities, from regular social gatherings to pilgrimages, retreats and outings that are child-centred. They are achieving tremendous success in providing the parents and their children with the skills to integrate better within their wider communities.

A role-play highlighted how caring for autistic children presents unique parenting challenges that can benefit from early specialist intervention! It was a dramatic and very moving way to help parents identify some of the telltale symptoms. They also touched on some of the misconceptions that extended family and friends can have about special children’s behaviours, mistakenly putting it down to ‘spoiling,’ or ‘too much indulgence,’ etc. If truth be told, these children need extraordinary levels of patience and empathy if they are to be better understood and helped. And that’s where specialists can make a big difference, especially when engaged at the earliest possible stage.

Dr Rajandran Muthoo, Consultant Child Psychiatrist at the Tuanku Jaafar General Hospital, Seremban, took great pains to emphasise the importance of early intervention. His message was one of real hope, when parents and specialists engage early and intensely, in helping autistic children develop the social habits and behaviours, that allow them to integrate with confidence and greater independence in larger communities.

Globally, some 1-2 per 1,000 are reported to suffer from some form of autism, though more recent figures from the USA and UK suggest that the incidence could be as much as 10 times greater. Autism affects five times as many boys as girls. Whereas there is no known cure, early intervention, from as young as two years when the first symptoms are evident, gives the best chance of successful management and assisting the children with the social and communicative skills that will allow them to play their part in society.

Dr Rajandran ended with a question and answer session.

Total Comments:0