Are we supporting access to the Word of God for all?
3 MINUTE READ
When you think about communication, what do you think of?
Words? Sounds? Language? What we say? How to say it?
In my 12 years as a paediatric Speech Pathologist, my understanding of communication has changed dramatically. I have had the privilege of working with children who communicate in a variety of different ways – using words, signs, pictures, gestures, and devices to ‘speak’ with others. And yet at the end of the day, the goal for these children is the same, regardless of how they communicate – their parents just want to be able to talk to them. To understand their needs. To listen to their ideas. To hear them say “I love you”.
As human beings, we have been designed to crave connectedness with others. We know that at the creation of mankind, God said “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18). God knew right from the start that we needed community and connectedness. How, though, do we connect with others if we do not understand one another? If I use words to speak, but my child cannot, how do I connect with them? Learn who they are? Meet their needs?
“How, though, do we connect with others if we do not understand one another? If I use words to speak, but my child cannot, how do I connect with them? Learn who they are? Meet their needs?”
While initially a parent’s goal for their child is usually, “I want them to use words to talk,” much of what I do actually focuses on helping parents to understand that there is more to communication than using words. Perhaps their child does not speak, but they can write, draw, gesture, point to pictures, use sign language, or even use a device to communicate. These forms of communication are not ‘less than’- they are different, but can be equally powerful in helping a child to connect with others: to understand, and to be understood.
To me, understanding someone’s communication style is as important as knowing their name. If I take the time to really know the children I work with, I can then communicate with them in the way that makes sense for them, allowing them to fully express their thoughts and to understand mine. Only when a child feels heard and understood, will they trust me enough to allow me to teach them the skills that they need. Without first fostering a sense of connectedness, I cannot help them to become all that they were made to be.
“Only when a child feels heard and understood, will they trust me enough to allow me to teach them the skills that they need. Without first fostering a sense of connectedness, I cannot help them to become all that they were made to be.”
These same principles of communication apply to a child’s relationship with God. We know that God speaks to people in their heart language, their first language that gives them the greatest understanding of what He is saying. How beautiful is it that God can speak directly to a child, making them feel loved and known by Him?!
But if these children do not communicate in the same way as us, do they have the same access to God’s teaching as we do?
I volunteer for my church’s children’s ministry on Sunday mornings, and I have the immense privilege of teaching children about God’s love and goodness. Most of the children in our congregation communicate with words, and so I can speak to them in a way that is familiar and comfortable for both myself and them. However, we have had children attend who have difficulty communicating with spoken words, due to hearing difficulties, attention difficulties, or difficulties processing spoken information. In these instances, I have been able to draw on my professional skills and adapt the way that I communicate so that our lesson is easier for those children to understand.
“… what about children who communicate with pictures, sign language, or devices? Or children attending services where their leaders do not know how to communicate in different ways? Are we truly supporting their access to the Word of God?”
That’s gotten me thinking – what about children who communicate with pictures, sign language, or devices? Or children attending services where their leaders do not know how to communicate in different ways? Are we truly supporting their access to the Word of God? There are resources that exist, but are they being utilised? And are they sufficient to support these children to access God’s teachings to the same degree of children that communicate with words?
Much has been done to provide equitable access to information for those with different communication needs, but there is still a long way to go. If you have children in your life who communicate differently, I encourage you to make the effort to meet these children where they are, and communicate with them in a way that allows you to truly know and understand one another. I promise you will not regret it.
Libby Wallace is a Paediatric Speech Pathologist from Newcastle, NSW. She is passionate about instilling a sense of worth and value in every child she works with, helping them to grow in their skills and confidence and reach their God-given potential.