The Impact of Learning Disabilities on Discipleship
Learning disabilities significantly impact one’s ability to assimilate information. In school, foundational subjects, like reading and math, are very challenging. So are learning skills, such as memorization and recall. As one ages, the absence of those skills greatly impacts a person’s daily life. Without the ability to read or write, follow a sequence of events, stay on task, or work independently, adults have difficulty navigating job responsibilities, deadlines, and details.
Perhaps you know of children and teens who have been diagnosed with one or more learning disabilities. They probably receive support in school to help overcome academic challenges. But the impact of learning disabilities on the heart and mind are not often considered.
What happens in church? Young people with learning disabilities typically do not receive additional support or encouragement at church. Even worse, they often receive negative attention because their behavior is deemed off-task or inappropriate.
Reading skills are vital for following along with Sunday School lessons, small group Bible studies, and the order of worship. Reading the Bible independently is challenging. Fine motor skills, which are integral to writing, are also necessary to participate in most Sunday School classes where reinforcing activities are often not adapted in a multisensory format.
Executive functioning skills and social skills are crucial for paying attention, exerting appropriate effort, organizing and planning activities, and interacting with others in multiple settings. All these skills are essential for children and teens to make and keep meaningful relationships at church.
Young people with learning disabilities who receive no accommodations at church are more likely to:
- protest when told it is time to go to church.
- disengage from Sunday School and small group Bible study.
- shy away from reading aloud, praying, and helping others in the classroom.
- exhibit negative behavior, such as restlessness, apathy, and disinterest.
- stop attending church as older teens and young adults.
- disengage from worship.
However, when learning disabilities are addressed in the church context, a person is more likely to grow and thrive spiritually and in their relationships with others. Their ability to worship, fellowship, serve, and make disciples are all improved when learning challenges are overcome.