April is Autism Awareness Month and a great time to give a little extra attention to the special-needs families who attend your church! 

According to the last census data, 1 in 5 families in the U.S. has a member with a disability. That’s 20 percent of the population. As a special-needs sibling (my sister has Down Syndrome) and a special-needs mom (my son has level-3 autism), I know the challenges many families like mine face when we attend church. So showing them a little extra love and encouragement can go a long way. 

As a women’s ministry leader, you can lead the way in welcoming families like mine. All it takes is one person reaching out to make a huge difference. 

Here are five ways you can bless a special-needs family during this season as we’re all struggling with the challenges brought on by the coronavirus or anytime:

1. Send a text to check in. I know your list of women to check on may be long right now, but special-needs families are really struggling (especially as they balance the needs of their child with disabilities and the needs of their typical children). A text to say you’re thinking of them and praying for them could really turn around a hard day.

2. Ask what your church can do to make the family feel more included and take steps to make that happen. The SBTC even has a special-needs ministry consultant available to help you be more accommodating to families like mine. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own.  

3. Send a gift card in the mail. A gift card to a restaurant with a drive thru is always appreciated, but so is a card for gas (since we often have to drive to therapy and/or doctor’s appointments) or a card for groceries or other general household supplies.  

4. Ask if someone in your church could spend time with the family and get to know the child in order to provide babysitting/respite. My son is 12 but is closer to the cognitive level of a three-year-old. I can’t just call up any 16-year-old girl to babysit him because she may need to help with toileting and changing his clothes. It takes a little extra training and a willing friend to help when we need it.  

5. Host a caregiver pampering event. If your women’s ministry is looking for ways to bless special-needs moms and wives who care for their husbands, this is a great way to do it. You can learn more about how to host a pampering event on my website, sandrapeoples.com

Thank you for all the ways you care for the women in your church, especially the steps you take to make caregivers like me feel welcomed and included. As Pro-Life advocates who believe every life has value from the womb to the tomb, we need to be on the front lines of advocating for this vulnerable population! It doesn’t take much to show you care. 

Sandra Peoples is the women’s ministry volunteer who covers zone s3 (south of Houston). She serves her church as a Bible teacher and the special-needs ministry director. She’s the author of Unexpected Blessings: The Joys and Possibilities of Life in a Special-Needs Family and the host of the podcast, Self Care and Soul Care for the Caregiver.