Catering to the Child

I recently served the meal for children in VBS.
A boy heartedly ate his piece of pizza and wanted another. 
When I handed him one, he told me, “This is cold.”
I looked at him, not willing to tell him his first piece was also probably cold.
He repeated his complaint.
I told him, “That‘s what we have. If you don’t want to eat it, put it on your plate.”
“But it’s cold.”
“Yes,” I repeated what I had said, more firmly.
“Well, you can microwave it.”
My response was firmer, “If you don’t want to eat it, put it on your plate. That is what we have to give.”
He tried again.
As I turned to help another, the teacher, watching all this, said, “He has special needs, you must give special allowances.”
I did not respond.
I don’t mind giving special chairs to people who cannot get in or out of regular chairs. 
I wouldn’t hesitate to help create an environment where all can learn by arranging chairs in a circle, or putting someone off by himself.
But what would happen if I had heated his pizza in the microwave?
Would he burn himself, then blame me? 
(Ask McDonalds about that one.)
Would everyone start to ask for theirs to be heated?
I could not accommodate that request. That was the standard, like it or not.

But I was basing my decision not to heat his pizza on the consequences of that action, not on its premise.
Its premise: that “He has special needs, you must give special allowances” is WRONG!

Life doesn’t change just because you can’t function like everyone else.
I am left-handed. Left-handed scissors are a joke. They don’t cut anything!
Just because I use my left-hand, doesn’t mean I’m not capable of using something sharp to cut paper.
It just won’t be straight—because I only see what I am cutting after I’ve cut---because the scissors blades hide it.
But that doesn't make the standard change—I still cut crooked.
That doesn’t mean we keep every left-handed person from cutting, since he’s “disabled.”
Or that we cut everything for the left-handed person.
That is absurd!
We give him opportunity to overcome that problem by giving him support and encouragement through the difficulties and give more opportunities that require him to cut.
So he can learn to cut and not be dependent upon another to cut his paper. Or accept that he cuts crooked.

Maybe a better illustration would be Miracle Worker, where Annie Sullivan is hired as the teacher to Helen Keller who is deaf, dumb and blind.
Annie required obedience.
It was only when she isolated herself with Helen, away from her catering mother, with Helen totally dependent upon Annie for everything, was she able to make progress in teaching Helen. 
Teaching requires obedience, as any teacher knows.
When the mother pressured Annie to return home because Helen knew now how to fold her napkin and sit nicely while they ate,
Annie argued that the mom was satisfied with Helen folding her napkin and eating civilized.
Annie wanted more for Helen than just acting right.
She wanted Helen to know her world.

Annie finally conceded. They returned to the family dynamics.
Any progress Helen had made was “forgotten” because she knew her boundaries with her mom was anything she wanted.
A family argument ensued. Finally the mother was made to concede to Annie's wishes.
Annie enforced her discipline—through severe lessons.
She finally broke through Helen's disobedience, and taught her what the world was about.
When Helen finally understood all that finger spelling in her hand meant words, she asked Annie's name. "T-E-A-C-H-E-R."
Her teacher brought her to understand her world and how it was, not how it could conform to her image.

We all must be teachers to show children how the world is.

Many with  mental disabilities are more sensitive to right and wrong and the spirit world.
They can sense a “bad person.”
By not requiring their obedience, we squelch that special insight.
They soon think that whatever they want is good, which is wrong. 
They don't have the mental facilities to reason with them, but they've been shown what they want is what they get.
We do a dis-service by catering to them. We portray to them a world that caters to them, which is not the true world.
The Bible says, He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently. Proverbs 13:24.

Eating cold pizza is not a case for disability. It’s a dislike. 
What the teacher was encouraging was discontent and questioning authority.
Some things should not be changed.
Granted, I do not like serving everyone cold pizza. But that is what everyone received.
That was the standard.
The child must realize his boundaries.  He can change some things, like maybe what he wears today, but other things must be accepted, like cold pizza.

Keep to the standard.
You say, “but there’s no way he can meet some standards.”
God has told His children, Be holy, because I am holy. I Peter 1:16.
Now that’s a standard no one can do!
But God gave it.
To show our need for Him.
We can't do it without Him.
If we constantly cater to a child with special needs, he will never see his need for God. He will think he’s in charge. 
He will never come to God. Because he doesn't need Him.
My actions for not giving him hot pizza is for his best.
Catering to his every whim, gives him the false impression he controls his environment.
Not only will he not see his need for God, but he will not be challenged to do better or be content.

The only time we change is when we are uncomfortable.
Without a challenge, we stay where we are.
We don’t grow.

I understand those with special needs don't do well with change. No one does. But we can't change the world to avoid changes.
We must teach them how to live with those changes.

I know a teacher of special needs students.
His students are real, severe needs children. They require diapers even at 18 years of age.
This teacher strives to make them functional in this world. 
That means, he teaches them how to sweep a floor, so maybe they can someday be a janitor. 
He works with them so they can participate in a special olympics where they win medals for the first time in their life— they aren’t just given to them, they are earned. 
Those kids love him.
He gives them the greatest service by challenging them to do better—to raise the standard of expectation for them.

Know how the parents respond to this?
They are angry.
Because they lose their disability money.
They would rather keep their child dependent upon someone—but not them, they don’t change their diapers during the night, they send them back to school with a full diaper—so they can get their disability money.

As teachers we can also get that mentality. 
If my students are dependent upon me, then I won’t lose my job.

But it’s the teacher’s job to work themselves out of job—to teach their students how to do it on their own.

Just as every parent should teach their children, regardless of his needs: 
God has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. 
Micah 6:8.

Cold pizza?
He’s challenging authority, not needing special accommodations.

Displaying 1 comment

SO good.

I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

Receive weekly articles by giving your email address below: