5 simple ways you can teach your child to love and support their peers with disabilities

As a mother of a disabled child, my favorite scripture stories are ones in which brothers and sisters carry one another. The story in Mark chapter 2 is a beautiful example of this and I love reading about the four people carrying a paralyzed man to Christ. Although they cannot get close enough to Jesus because there are so many people around, they uncover the roof where he is and carefully lower their friend onto his bed to be healed and blessed by the Savior. Every time I read about their efforts, I am inspired by the love and compassion they showed this man.

I also marvel at the story in 3 Nephi where Jesus looks at the crowd and says, “Have ye any sick among you? … Bring her here and I will heal her, for I pity you; my bowels are filled with mercy” (3 Nephi 17:7). I picture the crowd looking around and embracing their loved ones and carrying them step by step down the path to be healed at the feet of the risen Lord.

These stories remind me how much we really need each other: to carry, we must be willing to bear the weight and be willing to do what has never been done before. To be carried, we must have faith, knowing that miracles await us, and be ready to arrive at the feet of our Savior.

As we prepare to send our children into the world, whether that be going to school, going to church, serving a mission, or starting a career, there will be times when they, too, will have opportunities to wear theirs brothers and sisters to help . As I raise my disabled child, I have been blessed by other mothers, fathers, and their children who know what it means to figuratively bring loved ones to the Savior. Your efforts bless my life and strengthen me for another day. With that in mind, here are five ways you can teach your children to help in a similar way in bearing the Savior’s call:

  1. Invite and involve: Encourage your children to invite everyone to birthday parties or get-togethers as often as possible. Be aware of children with disabilities in your child’s class, community, and neighborhood, and offer them and their parents a personal invitation to the next event you are planning. Let these parents know that their child is truly loved and wanted at the meeting, and ask if there is anything you can do to enable their child to attend. For example, it can be helpful to have the child’s older siblings or parents join the party, or have the child wear headphones if the party gets too loud. Express that you are willing to make small changes to the plans if it helps everyone get involved.
  2. show similarities: You can help your children build bridges of friendship and integration by pointing out the similarities you see between them and their peers with disabilities. Whether they have the same taste in fashion, food, music, TV shows, games, or other activities, you can help them see that they have a lot in common. This can create opportunities for bonding rather than spending time reflecting on perceived differences.
  3. Teach your kids how to offer help: People with disabilities know what they have learned to do independently and where they need support. Because of this, it’s best to ask them if there’s anything you can help with and then respect their answer. It is neither friendly nor respectful to intervene when your help is unwanted or unnecessary. We can teach our children to simply say, “If you need anything, I’m here to help!” and then hear and respect the answer. As simple as that.
  4. Advocates help: As a parent of children with disabilities, I can tell you that at times it can be disheartening to be the only one asking for my child to be admitted, for accommodations to be made, or for others to see the importance of their being welcomed are to excursions, excursions and other activities. You can help by teaching your child to express to teachers and leaders a desire to include their friends with disabilities in school and Church activities. Your willingness to change plans, give up small details, or help a child with disabilities succeed in the activity because they are wanted there can make all the difference in making everyone feel welcome. Your child’s attitude and willingness to reach out to The One will help leaders and teachers feel more motivated to make activities a welcoming and positive place for everyone.
  5. Lead by example: In each of these scenarios, the best way we can teach our children to show them how we expect them to behave is by example. We can invite and include, point out the similarities we see in others, offer help and respect boundaries, and be advocates for friends, colleagues, and community members regardless of their background or challenges. It shows our children that we are willing to carry our friends and peers by our side, and it is our testimony that we love one another through our actions, which often speak louder than words.
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As I think back to the stories of others carrying their loved ones to Christ, my heart longs to be there. I envision myself carrying my little boy on my hip while he giggles, his weight increasing little by little, but I would still remain determined to arrive at the Master Healer’s feet and entrust my son and his destiny to Him. I would ask the Savior to heal his eyes, perfect his beating heart, strengthen his muscles, and calm his fears. I would pray that Zane’s near-perfect mind and beautiful personality could be housed in an equally vibrant body. Then I find myself looking Jesus in the eye and asking for a miracle, and as I do so, I realize that another miracle has already happened—for in bringing my son to the Savior, I have also drawn closer to him.

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The same goes for all of us; It is impossible to bring others to the feet of Jesus Christ unless we ourselves kneel before Him. So, as we teach our children to help carry, we can be confident that they will not miss out on other good things because they will also develop their own personal relationship with Christ.

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There will be days when we are all called to help carry others to be healed through the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ. There will also be days when our hearts ache, our heads hang, and we must rely on others to carry us to Him. Either way, mutual love, sheer humility, and a willingness to serve others will bring us closer to Christ—and together we will experience miracles.

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