The Voorheesville Church of Christ is a local church founded in the late 1800’s by a local group of Christians who wanted to come together as a community to worship the LORD. Within the church there is an 8 year old little boy Albert and his family that attend church on a weekly basis. When Albert was younger he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Due to his cerebral palsy he is confined to a wheel chair and has many limitations placed upon him. Albert attends the Voorheesville Church of Christ children’s ministry and has given the church a new insight to a full inclusion children’s ministry program. The church within one year and five years will be implementing different ways in which to make full inclusion possible for the children’s ministry as well as for the church. This paper will further discuss Cerebral Palsy and the affects that it has on Albert and his family, as well as detail about the church and their children’s ministry.
Overview of the Voorheesville Church of Christ
The full inclusion ministry that I am proposing is at the Voorheesville Church of Christ is a local church in my hometown of Voorheesville, New York. The Voorheesville Church was built in the late 1800’s, and was one of the first churches built in the area until the early 1900’s. The church was established by a group of Christians who came together as a small group of believers, which served the LORD through community worship. The group of believers whom established the church worshipped together in a small barn that is right next to the church they had built. Voorheesville is a small community, therefore, the church today consists of believers of all ages, while a great deal of attenders are elderly, their children, and grandchildren. Overall, the church is in a fragile state appearance wise; however, the church is a close knit family who welcomes everyone to attend and join their church family, to serve the LORD together.
The Church is organized and ran by Minister Leon, and has been running it for the past 30 years with his wife Helena. Throughout the years, the church has acquired two assistance that help Minister Leon run the church, they are, Chris and Jill. The church services are convened often for those who are time restricted, they include Wednesday mornings at 9:00-10:00 am, Thursday evenings at 6:30 to 7:30 pm, and Sundays from 10:10-11:00 am, and 2:30-3:10 pm. Holiday church services are 2 hours, Good Friday from 5:00-7:00 pm, Easter service is 8:30-10:30 am, Christmas Eve service 7:00-9:00 pm, and Christmas Service from 9:00 am-9:45 am. The services encourage those to come together and celebrate the birth and life of our savior, Jesus Christ.
All new members are always welcome, as well as for the holiday services. The purpose for which the church was established was in order for members to meet in a civilized place, and come together to serve the LORD, and honor the values that we as Christians are to uphold. Through coming together as a community, we are honoring God’s ideas of uniting as group to worship, we are in turn worshiping and uniting as a community, a sense of family serving and honoring the LORD. Summary of the Current Children’s Ministry
The Voorheesville Church of Christ children’s ministry is directed by Richard, who has been the director of the Children’s Ministry and Sunday school program for 17 faithful years. There are currently meetings on Sunday mornings, with one evening meeting on Thursday’s that is specifically for older children, and it provides them with a period where they can thoroughly discuss biblical readings and religion more effectively. The Sunday school has four lead teachers, with an assistant in the toddler and infant classroom.
Miss Claire is the lead Sunday school teacher in the infant and toddler classroom, Miss Rebecca is the preschool teacher, Mr. Joseph is the lead adolescent program teacher, and finally Mr. Brad is the lead teacher for the teen program. There are also volunteers that assist on the weekend, and they are in the classrooms to provide assistance to lead teachers in the children’s ministry. The lead teachers all work together to coordinate a primary theme for their lesson plans, this provides siblings the same educational discussions at the same time, while meeting the appropriate age level for each. This promotes comradery throughout the church and families within the church, developing a closeness between all that attend, meeting the ideas brought upon society by God himself.
Throughout the Early Childhood Center, the children meet for the children’s ministry, there are 4 large classrooms for teens, adolescence, preschool, and infant/toddlers. All of the classrooms are all handicap accessible if needed, and also provide plenty of room for the children to run and play. The classrooms have been remodeled in recent years, and are bright and cheerful, with a great deal of colors to promote learning. Each classroom is decorated in religious sayings, and art work produced by the students themselves that promote religious worship.
The educational opportunities that are taught are in regards to the LORD our savior, and promotes Christian values and encourages godly behavior to all students. The children all learn in a fun, meaningful, learning environment that provides children with a fun experience while learning about the bible. In the infant, toddler, and preschool classrooms they listen to a lot of religious songs on CD’s including Kids Praise and Veggie Tales. In the young children classrooms, they do a lot of children’s bible readings to ensure comprehension, and fun activities that are educational and have biblical meanings. While the young adolescence and teenagers do biblical readings, discussions, and reenact scenes in plays that are often acted out in front of the elders of the church. The overall ideal of the children’s ministry is to teach children about the LORD, and encourage Christianity through fun activities, and interaction. Necessary Key Elements
The use of volunteers is critical to the success of the children’s ministry, essentially, these volunteers provide a great deal of assistance to the lead teacher. While the lead teacher provide the important information and knowledge to encourage the learning process, the assistance can walk around and help the children who need help or are not doing well, essentially allowing more of the students to have a meaningful learning experience. This will provide all students with useful knowledge that will be beneficial to them as they get older and closer to Christ.
Volunteers are useful in the church in a variety of ways, including in the children’s ministry. The ministry requests for volunteers that will help assist the program through putting out a list every weekend that is for upcoming volunteers for the following week, which helps to ensure there will be enough providers to care for students. The volunteers do a variety of things in the classroom, including assisting students who need help with an activity or with general care for children while they are in the classroom, to include: diaper changing, assisting to the bathroom, assist with hand washing, handing out snacks, and getting materials ready for the lead teacher. Overall the goal of having volunteers as assistance in the children’s ministry is to have extra hands and eyes in the classroom, and to allow the lead teacher to maintain focus on the classroom as a whole. Having the assistance also provides more individualized attention, while also providing more eyes and ears in the classroom, which to ensure overall safety for all children. Training
In order for volunteers or other people to become teachers at our children’s ministry, everyone must undergo proper training in order ensure the safety to all children within the ministry; which includes training on proper care for children with special needs. The training for lead teachers include: a background check, Healthcare CPR certification from the American Red Cross, and a basic health and safety training program. All lead teachers and volunteers will also be required to watch a video in regards to caring for children with special needs, and lead teachers will be required to get certification in teaching children with special health, physical, and/or educational needs. This training ensures that if a situation arises, the students will be taken care of appropriately and precautionary measures are met to ensure their overall health and wellness, as well as the safety of others.
For volunteers, the training is different, since they are on a voluntary basis; and because the lead teacher will always be in the classroom, the volunteers don’t need as extensive of training. Therefore, the primary training for a volunteer is that they are certified with CPR through the American Red Cross and verified that they are not a registered sex offender, and upon volunteering will provided a short introductory training course on children’s health and safety. Generally, volunteers will be repeat volunteers, and therefore, the training will ensure the volunteer is truly interested in the opportunity of working with children and promoting the word of God. Materials
Albert is a boy within the children’s ministry who is confined to a wheel chair and there are only steps currently at the building, and therefore, there should be wheel chair ramps at entrances to the building for Albert to enter. Along with these ramps there should also be an automatic door button for Albert to press in order for him to be able to open the door to the church and into the classrooms as well. Within the church it-self there should be ramps or even elevators for those who may not be able to use the stairs, such as Albert or other children and adults that may have difficulties walking up and down stairs.
Within the classrooms themselves, the walk areas should be wide enough so that Albert and others can maneuver their wheel chairs though, and it is important to ensure that the aisles and pathways are kept clear of toys and any other objects. Located in the corner of the room is a spot for children who may have difficulties with balance or other limited difficulties with soft patted mats where they have the opportunity to interact with teachers or volunteer’s one on one. The table at which everyone is seated should be able to accommodate the needs of Albert’s wheelchair, or have a chair in which there is capability for Albert to transition to from his wheelchair if he feels comfortable with. The playground itself should be handicap accessible, and have a few areas in which a child with disabilities are able to play with others without feeling separated from their peers. By ensuring the Albert’s overall needs are met as a whole, the environment will be an overall positive experience for everyone involved, including Albert and other children that may have disadvantages in a typical environment. Albert and Information on his Disability
Albert is an 8 year old boy who has been attending the Voorheesville Church of Christ children’s ministry for a little over 4 and a half years now with his family on a weekly basis. Albert is a very caring and sweet boy who always seems to have a smile on his face when someone speaks to him. Albert is a special little boy, who has special needs that require some assistance on a day to day basis due to his diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy. When Albert was 2 years old he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to having a severe case of jaundice as an infant that was left untreated, and caused severe hardship. His parents first noticed his delays in rolling over, sitting up, and crawling all being significantly delayed.
Unfortunately, Albert was never able to walk and was provided a wheelchair to get around. Through severe physical therapy, Albert can take few steps on his own, however, because of his limited physical movement in his lower portion of his body, is confined to a wheel chair majority of his days. Another medical complication brought on by Cerebral Palsy is Albert’s seizures, and can often come out of nowhere. However, Albert has taken daily medications for years, multiple times a day, and they are taken to control and/or cut back the seizures, and decrease the severity. The severity of Albert’s Cerebral Palsy is classified as severe, as he has lost mobility and has severe seizures, as well as other internal damage that is due to the Cerebral Palsy.
Although Albert is confined to a wheel chair, he makes every attempt to be involved in activities that he typical peers are involved in. When play time arises there are always children who like to sit at the table with Albert and do puzzles, color, or simply read a book with him. Albert’s communication skills aren’t that of his typical peers, due to his developmental delays that are associated with his diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy; however, he makes great attempt to socialize with his peers, and communicate with those around him with verbal and nonverbal forms of communication. Albert doesn’t allow his disability stop him from having a life, and living a life like his typical peers; he is very interested in being like others, and works hard every day of his life to meet his highest potential. Research of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy was first discovered and brought about by an English orthopedic surgeon named “William Little in 1861” (Talic, A. & Ulrich, H., 2010). Since the discovery of cerebral palsy by Doctor Little, there have been many people who have been interested in studying this disease further to truly understand it. The International Journal of Nursing Studies states that “cerebral palsy (CP) is a non-progressive, neurological condition, resulting primarily from damage to or malformation of the developing brain” (McCullough, N., Parkes, J., Kerr, C. & McDowell, B., 2013). The disease does not progress over the years, and will present with symptoms that do not decline over the years, and is often diagnosed at an early age, typically before the age of 3.
The disease can occur for a variety of reasons, to include: random mutations, maternal infections, prenatal complications, alcohol and drug use during pregnancy, fetal stroke, and lack of oxygen, infant infections, and traumatic head/brain injury such as shaken baby syndrome (Mayo Clinic). There is no way to prevent Cerebral Palsy, however, there are precautions that can be taken to decrease the risk of an infant developing Cerebral Palsy, to include: don’t drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or do drugs during pregnancy, report domestic violence or child abuse, and/or see a doctor if you see signs of medical complications during pregnancy or infancy. According to Mayo Clinic, one of the leading healthcare facilities in the country, the signs to watch for “during infancy or preschool years”. By taking precautions and monitoring your child at a young age, it would be more beneficial to have an early diagnosis, so that they can begin treatment to ensure a positive outcome. Prevalence
In today’s society, it is fairly common to meet an individual adult, child, or parent of a child with Cerebral Palsy. The prevalence has increased over the years, and now affect a great deal of children that are born today. It is common for one to know someone with or who has children with Cerebal Palsy, because of how common the disease is. According to The Gale Encyclopedia, it states that “approximately 8,000 babies and infants are diagnosed with the condition each year” (Polzin, S., Careta, F., Louro, L., & Laberge, M. 2011). Cerebral palsy can have many different symptoms in which parents need to look for in order for their children to be diagnosed with this disorder. Although Cerebral palsy can be mild for most children there can be more severe forms in which can lead to more serious complications. Characteristics
Characteristics of Cerebral Palsy can present itself in a variety of ways, and some like most diseases, the characteristics of Cerebral Palsy can often be more severe for one patient, than it can be with another. While there are some characteristics that are definite between each patient, the overall symptoms depend upon the severity of the disease present. Cerebral Palsy can impact the body in many different ways, including it can cause delays or impairment of a person’s health and wellness, physical ability, intellectual abilities, communication, vision, and hearing. Cerebral Palsy can affect the entire body in a variety of ways, and the symptoms may become more apparent over time, as a child gets older. In general, cerebral palsy causes impaired movement associated with exaggerated reflexes, floppiness or rigidity of the limbs and trunk, abnormal posture, involuntary movements, unsteadiness of walking, or some combination of these” ( mayo clinic).
The characteristics can dramatically affect a child’s overall ability to function at a developmentally appropriate age level, and can often require intense therapies and treatment to live a generally normal lifestyle. According to Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, “ other impairments are associated with cerebral palsy which are hip dislocation, displacement and spine deformities, sleep disorders, excessive drooling, bladder and bowel control complaints, and behavior difficulties” (McIntyre, S., Morgan, C., Walker, K., & Novak, I., 2011). Although cerebral palsy can cause a variety of impairments on different areas throughout the body, not everyone experiences all of these symptoms. These symptoms can be mild to severe and may not occur at all in some cases, and present themselves significantly different in each person. Prognosis
Because of growing technology, the prognosis for Cerebral Palsy is good. In recent years, there was a great deal of studies conducted helped to understand the disease and ultimately find a means of treatment that provides a better quality of life. The quality of life is overall better and a decreased death rate because of medications and treatments, however, a life with cerebral palsy will still require various appointments, therapy, testing, medications, and treatments. Although cerebral palsy is a non-progressive disease, it can feel as though it worsens as a child ages, because the necessary requirements increase in order to stay as healthy as possible. However, the overall prognosis of a child with cerebral palsy depends upon the severity of the case.
While the overall prognosis for mild Cerebral Palsy is good, with severe progression of the disease, there is a chance of the prognosis to become fatal. Generally though, with treatment of the symptoms, the patient has a great chance of survival. According to The Lancet, “if all impairment domains are not severe, survival is only marginally less than that of individuals without cerebral palsy. If severe impairments are present, then life expectancy is reduced approximately in proportion to the number and severity of associated impairments” (Colver, A., Fairhurst, C., & Pharah, P., 2014).
One research was done to see if the health of children with cerebral palsy changes within a long period of time or whether it stays the same. In this study there were 156 children who had participated within this study. Within this study the parents of the children are asked to answer 50 questions which are based upon different areas of their children functioning areas. The results had shown that there are numerous reasons why health can change over time.
It states that “in this study we relied on parent report of health status, and it may be that children would have reported a different view of their health status than that of their parents. n relation to monitoring the health of children with ambulant cerebral palsy, nurses need to be aware that several factors – motor function, age and communication abilities are associated with changes in health status over time” (McCullough, N., Parkes, J., Kerr, C. & McDowell, B., 2013). Although parents had answered questions about different areas of their children’s overall areas of growth there are also other areas of development that can affect the way in which can affect health as well. It would be impossible to determine a child has Cerebral Palsy just by looking at them, therefore, it is essential to conducting testing. Social Dynamics
Social dynamics is truly a significantly important part of any child’s overall growth and development. Through maintaining positive healthy relationships, it helps create a healthy balance in a child’s life. Socialization is something that should be valued in a child’s life and children should be encouraged often to socially interact with other children, in order to develop healthy social skills. Disorders of Childhood: Development and Psychopathology believe that peer relationships “serve as rich settings for socioemotional learning (Parritz, R., & Troy, M., p. 22, 2014). However, quite often, children with cerebral palsy may have communication or other impairments that may often make their social dynamics more difficult than their typical peers. It is vital to healthy development, to promote social growth and development; therefore, through the encouragement, the child will more likely develop better social skills through parental and educators guidance.
One common means for encouraging social dynamics is to provide students with group activities or class discussions that requires social interaction amongst one another. As an educator or volunteer in the classroom, the primary goal is to ensure that students are interacting with one another and that not one child is being treated poorly or left out; therefore, as a teacher you are able to foster social relationships in the classroom and to intervene if necessary. Partnership of Church, Family & School
IEP/IFSP Goal 1: Although Albert is confined to his wheel chair most of his days, Albert will work with his volunteer for 10 minutes per day.
For most of Albert’s life he has been confined to a wheel chair and has been going to physical therapy week for 5 years. Recently he has made huge strides and is now able to stand up to 10 minutes; and through continuing the work that is done at therapy, he will be able to make big endeavors in the future. Therefore, it would be beneficial to provide Albert the opportunity to work with his volunteer on his ability to stand with assistance. IEP/IFSP Goal 2: Due to Albert’s limited abilities to communicate because of his disability he tends to have frequent outburst of screaming because he is not able to communicate with others. Albert will focus on communicating more with teachers and peers at least 50% of the time within the classroom.
Due to Albert having cerebral palsy this has left him with limited abilities to communicate with others around him. Albert tries to very hard both verbally and non-verbally to communicate with everyone although at times he becomes frustrated and upset. This causes Albert to have outburst and begin to scream due to not being able to communicate with others. This IEP goal will help Albert to work on his communication skill with his teachers and peers in order to have more positive outcomes. Everyone will work together in order to ensure that the number of outbursts that Albert is having because of frustration will be reduced. IEP/IFSP Goal 3: Albert is currently delayed in his writing abilities due to his disability. Albert will continue to work with his teacher and parents to achieve a 60% increase in his writing abilities at the end of the year.
This goal of encouraging Albert to improve his writing will help him to continue progressing at the rate of his peers. Currently, Albert is severely delayed and has complications with his writing abilities at school, and is in the second grade with first grade writing abilities. The delay is due to his fine motor skills impaired from the disease Cerebral Palsy; therefore, to improve his writing abilities, it would be imperative to work on his pencil grip and coordination and encourage writing in and outside of his classrooms and therapies often. IEP/IFSP Goal 4: Albert will be able understand more about his religion and eventually have a personal relationship with God.
Albert wants to have a deep connection to God, but sometimes ask why God would make him born with an illness like Cerebral Palsy. He has the faith and wants to understand, therefore, by providing him with the knowledge he needs in regards to God and the creation of illnesses being separate would be beneficial to his growing religious beliefs. The goal is to educate Albert on the LORD’s ability to cure illness, and how if this was possible, it would be done. It is important to provide Albert with the knowledge that we are all created beautiful unique individuals, and we are all beautiful in our own individual ways. 2 Corinthians 5”7 “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (ESV). We must have faith and hope in our savior, and recognize that we cannot see all the work he does for us. Plan for Growth of the Ministry
In one year in the children’s ministry, it would be beneficial to add in a wheel chair ramp in the front of the church to help those with disabilities enter the building without possibility of injury. The second goal for the church in order to grow the children’s ministry would be to ensure the playground is handicap friendly and accessible, as it is currently is not completely handicap accessible, there are areas with mulch that can impair the wheelchairs ability to maneuver appropriately. The last goal for the first year in order to grow the church ministry would be to widen all the doorways throughout the building, to ensure that wheelchairs can get through the doors without struggle. In order to fulfill the needs of the church the first year, the church would be required to get volunteers to do work and to have fundraisers for the equipment that is needed in order to improve the overall church and the children’s ministry. Five Year
Five year goals to achieve would be to create a summer camp for all children to attend, including children with special educational, physical, or medical needs. This would encourage full inclusion, while allowing children who are often not able to attend camps with typical peers, the ability to be in a full inclusion setting. The church also would benefit from adding an evening support group for parents of children with special needs that would allow families to support one another through their difficult times. Another goal for future changes for the church would be to add a full inclusion Christian based preschool for children to attend from 0-5 years old, and would teach children an education that is centered on religion and the early childhood education standards. Conclusion
The children’s ministry that is being proposed at the Voorheesville Church of Christ, and is a church that is in a small town in New York. The goal is to provide a children’s ministry that is handicap capable and is able to meet the needs of special needs students. The church currently doesn’t have handicap accessibility to enter the building, and could easily scare off a person or family with someone with physical disabilities. In order to promote a well-rounded program that encourages children or adults with disabilities to get involved in their community and to do work for the LORD. The teachers at the Voorheesville Church of Christ are welcoming, and are trained in order to care for a child with special needs. Although the lead teachers are sufficiently trained, and provide a great deal of care for the students in the classroom, they do have volunteers that assist during the week and on weekends, and they are there to assist in the classroom, to be extra set of hands for the lead teacher.
There is a great deal of training that is required of an educator in the classrooms at Voorheesville Church of Christ, however, with volunteers, they don’t necessarily need as much training. The materials needed to be successful would be the wheelchair ramp, and automatic door switches for the doors to open without needing assistance. Albert is the inspiration behind making progress to the church and it’s children’s ministry. Albert is an 8 year old little boy in the children’s ministry who struggles with his battle against Cerebral Palsy that has caused him to be confined to a wheelchair. In order to help Albert, his goals are to practice standing, work on communication skills, and practice his writing abilities to ensure they can continuously improve.
The goal of the church is to make physical changes to the church in order to be handicap accessible, to include: widening the doorways, changing the playground setting to incorporate special needs students in typical play, and most importantly add wheel chair ramps to all entrances of the building. For long term goals, it would be beneficial to create a preschool and a summer camp that are both full inclusion that allow special needs children to be actively involved with their typical peers, along with providing support to parents of children with special needs. Improving the church to meet the needs of families with special needs improves the church in a dramatic way, and can truly create a better overall experience for everyone involved.
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