Someone I Know Has a Disability
Answers for common questions related to disability.
While your friend’s life has certainly changed drastically with this injury, remember he is still the same person he was before his accident. In the months ahead, find things besides the accident to talk about and be prepared to simply listen when needed. Take a look at “What to Say or Do for your Friend in the Hospital.” Also, consider reading, and perhaps sharing, Joni Eareckson Tada’s autobiography, Joni. You may find it helpful to hear some tips from Joni’s mother, speaking from her own experience in the days following Joni’s injury.
Be consistent in your friendship. Look for ways to serve your friend’s family while he is in rehabilitation. Remember that your friend and his family will continue to need support in the months and years to come. Learn more about how you can help through the booklet “Disability: When it First Touches Your Family.”
First and foremost, see your neighbor as a whole person. Offer your friendship and get to know one another. As the opportunity arises, speak to her directly to see how you might be able to serve her. Invite her to your church. Consider talking with your pastor about how to make your church building accessible if needed, and to equip your congregation to reach out to people with disabilities. As you get to know your neighbor, contact the nearest Joni and Friends location for local support. Not only will you be able to get resources and advice as a friend of someone with a disability, but your neighbor may also find great local support and be able to meet other Christians who are affected by disability. Also, consider reading Barrier-Free Friendships. Depending on your neighbor’s disability, you may also find helpful advice and support from Friendship Ministries.
Resources: Church Engagement Resources, Beyond Suffering Including People with Disabilities in Faith Communities, 10 Ways to Reach out to People with Disability in Your Community, Disability Campaign: Welcoming a Wheelchair User into Your Home, Beatitudes for Friends of People with Disabilities
Remember that every person with a disability is a whole person, and most likely does not want to feel like a “project.” Be sincere in your efforts; be willing to share your life, your friendship, and your own testimony with this person. Consider sharing Joni’s triumphant autobiography Joni, or the first episode of her award-winning TV series, “I’d Rather Be in this Wheelchair Knowing Him…” Also, peruse the Joni and Friends radio page where Joni’s hopeful, biblically-based perspective may offer special insights as you reach out to an individual with disabilities. You will find many practical suggestions for serving others in Barrier-Free Friendships. Also, depending on your friend’s disability you may find helpful advice and support from Friendship Ministries. See if there’s a meeting near you, and offer to go with your friend. Or you might even consider starting a group near you!
There are many sources for wheelchairs and disability equipment within the United States. For well-refurbished disability equipment, look into Friends of Disabled Adults and Children. For reasonably priced new and used adaptive equipment, check out Disabled Dealer, an online classified ad service. If you are looking for inexpensive used wheelchairs and equipment, we recommend checking local ministries like Goodwill and Salvation Army. Your nearest Joni and Friends location may be familiar with an individual nearby who would like to loan or donate a used wheelchair for your use. There may also be smaller medical equipment loan organizations in your local vicinity that could lend you a wheelchair until other arrangements can be made.
Due to liability issues and industry standards, Joni and Friends does not provide wheelchairs here in the US. However, we do gratefully accept donations of manual wheelchairs, pediatric wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, and canes. These items are restored and distributed internationally through Wheels for the World. Be a part of the action by joining one of our distribution teams or by collecting used wheelchairs through our Chair Corps!
You are not alone! Talk to your mom or dad or other trusted adults in your life (like your pastor or Sunday school teacher) about your concerns. Ask them to pray with you and see if they have any ideas for how you can help your sister make new friends. Visit our YouTube page to find videos for kids. We’d love to have your family join us at a Joni and Friends Family Retreat! You and your sister will meet other families affected by disability and begin friendships that may last a lifetime! And we’d like to let you know about the Sibling Support Project, helping out kids whose brothers and sisters have disabilities. You can even join in one of their SibShops, where you will meet and have fun with other siblings of children with special needs!
Joni has often said that she has grown in her walk with Christ in proportion to the time she has spent in His Word. What a blessing it can be to read His word and seek Him alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ!
There are some fantastic Bible study resources available through Joni and Friends. Consider joining Joni and Ken in their yearly Bible reading plan. Joni has also written two exceptional Bible studies, Life in the Balance and When God Weeps. Life in the Balance offers biblical perspectives on the hot topics of today. When God Weeps tackles timeless questions about God’s role in our suffering. You may also enjoy going through one of Joni’s books as a study.
If you intend the Bible study to be for people with developmental disabilities, be sure to browse the resources available through Friendship Ministries.
It can be very difficult to transition to adulthood, whether or not you have a disability! Such a big step requires support from you, your friends, church, and community.
Begin by enlisting friends to pray as you navigate this new phase of his life. You may find encouragement attending one of our Joni and Friends Family Retreats. You will meet other families affected by disability, many of which may also be considering their children’s transition into adulthood. Please also connect with your nearest Joni and Friends location for local resources and support.
Shepherds College is a three-year, post-secondary education program helping individuals with developmental disabilities transition into independent living appropriate to their skills. A young adult may also find continued moral support by joining a local Friendship Ministries group. Connecting with others through this ministry will offer peer support and Christian encouragement.
We are so pleased to hear about churches moving in this direction! Although very important, this is not just about accessibility. It is also about fostering a welcoming community for those with disabilities, becoming educated and aware of how to help. Joni and Friends offers some great resources for pastors and church leaders. We highly recommend you join us for a Beyond Suffering course, which prepares community and ministry leaders to become more actively involved in ministry to the disabled. We’d like to draw your attention to books in our Joni and Friends store, the Irresistible Church booklet series and Including People in Faith Communities. These books will equip both adults and children to welcome people with disabilities into your congregation. Friendship Ministries, focusing on ministering to individuals with intellectual disabilities, and Nathaniel’s Hope, ministering to children with special needs, offer two great models of disability ministry. Lastly, connect with a nearby Joni and Friends location. They will be thrilled to hear from you, connect you with other congregations who are like-minded, and support you in your efforts to welcome people with disabilities into your congregation.
Take heart that you are not alone in this journey. Spend some time reflecting on Matthew 6:25-34. Remember that His eye is on the sparrow, and surely it is on your family as well! First and foremost, share this new diagnosis with your pastor and church leadership, asking for prayer and support. In the years to come, it will be your church’s privilege to stand beside your family and encourage you, being watchful for needs as they arise.
We highly recommend Making Sense of Autism from Joni’s Award-winning television series. While you personally will benefit from the insights in this film, you may also want to share it with your pastor and friends to help them better understand how to support your family. Be sure to visit Different Dream for My Child and connect with the Joni and Friends location nearest you to get plugged in with other parents for ongoing encouragement.
Your struggle is not uncommon. Disability can take its toll on your marriage and family life. Be sure to talk to your pastor about your struggles. And as difficult as it can sometimes be, ask for prayer and support from your trusted church community. Take some time to read Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story and let Ken and Joni tell you about the tests they've encountered in marriage and how they gained victory over the pressures of unending care giving routines, lack of privacy, and other struggles borne out of the disability in their marriage. In the Joni and Friends TV episode, For Better or For Worse, you can hear from Joni and Ken as well as from their friends Mike and Renee Bondi, who have experienced God’s power through the disability in their lives. Please also contact the Joni and Friends location nearest you, where you will be able to connect with other families affected by disability to gain encouragement, fellowship, and refresh your marriage. For further help and advice, make sure to check out Focus on the Family as you depend on Christ to strengthen your marriage.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13, 16). We must always remember that children with disabilities are first and foremost individual children who are loved very deeply by God. Bless you for standing with your friend, reminding her of God’s loving providence over her own baby’s life.
We recommend you contact the Joni and Friends location nearest you. They will be happy to offer support for your friend and her dear little one individually and through programs such as Joni and Friends Family Retreats. They will help connect her with other families of children with disabilities, which will be so important as she moves forward. If your friend is considering abortion, we highly recommend you and she connect with your local pro-life community pregnancy center. They will be able to offer wise counsel and support, as well as connect you with other local resources. More support in this area can be found through CHASK. In the first days and weeks after birth, your friend may find it helpful to contact the caring people at Hand to Hold. They offer support and resources to families of babies with special medical needs. Lastly, take a moment to read "10 Positive Things to Say to a New Mother." Your commitment to your friend during this confusing time will speak volumes and may offer her the encouragement she needs to step forward with hope.
What a beautiful calling the Lord has placed on your lives! We learn throughout Scripture that God has a deep love for the fatherless (Deut. 14:29, Job 29:12, Psalm 68:5 James 1:27) and commands His followers to take special care of them. You are glorifying God and bringing Him great pleasure as you seek to reflect this aspect of God’s love! Please consider volunteering at a Joni and Friends Family Retreat, where you will meet many families of children with disabilities and learn about both the challenges and blessings. There are many adoption support services available, such as The National Adoption Foundation, and National Adoption Center, as well as organizations which specialize in finding homes for children with disabilities (CHASK and The Philip Hayden Foundation). We also suggest you connect with your local county’s foster family agency. As many as 30 to 40 percent of children in the US foster care system have physical health problems. Many of these children are in need of their “forever” families. Whether you choose to foster or adopt, your local foster agencies work hard to connect you with all the resources available to your son or daughter with special needs.
May God bless you for seeking to equip people with disabilities in your classroom or elsewhere! AbleData will assist you in locating companies that sell assistive technology products, both in the United States and internationally. Also, go to disability.gov and click on “technology” to search state-wide and nationally for the right assistive technology for your students. You may be surprised to discover what is available. Consider contacting your state’s department of rehabilitation services for information on how to get these products into your students’ hands.
Resources: Beyond Suffering iBook
New diagnoses like this can be so frightening. Remember, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18). He has not abandoned you or your family! Proverbs 16:9 says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” May you sense His presence and guidance while you navigate the road ahead.
Talk with your doctor about what to expect in the near and more distant future. In addition, let your pastor know about this new development, enlisting the help and prayer of your church. A Joni and Friends Family Retreat may be a great option for your family. The new relationships, encouragement, and refreshment gained at a Family Retreat help many families press on with renewed hope and vigor.
As a primary caregiver, Caregiver’s Voice and Eldercare Locator may be helpful to you. The Alzheimer’s Association also has a wealth of information on Alzheimer’s, as well as local resources and support groups.
Do you have a question or concern that has not been addressed? Please contact us for additional help and resources.