As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are taught to love and accept all of our Father’s children. That includes those around us who have physical, emotional, and mental disabilities. Our goal is to fully extend the blessings of the gospel to everyone. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35.)
Some of us have disabilities or know family members or friends with disabilities.
Some have impaired hearing or vision; some have mental illness or intellectual impairments; some have learning disabilities or serious behavior problems. Some of our disabilities are visible, because they require such things as wheelchairs or hearing aids. Many more are invisible.
The love and understanding of the Savior included all people in all their circumstances. We can follow his perfect example by increasing our own understanding and acceptance of those whose challenges seem great.
When we do not understand, a person who suffers from depression may seem to lack faith. A person who is hard of hearing may seem unresponsive. A child with a behavior disorder may seem to lack proper discipline.
One mother who has a child with a disability hopes others will understand her child’s abilities, as well as her disabilities. “My child is 90 percent typical and only 10 percent disabled,” she said, “but most people notice only her disabilities.”
As we follow the Savior’s example of love and compassion to all, those with disabilities will feel accepted. One teenager who is both blind and profoundly deaf feels loved when ward members shake his hand and give him a hug. Another child who is deaf loves to see her bishop, who has learned to greet her by name and say “I love you” in sign language. But a mother sorrows that friends rarely mention her autistic son, who cannot be taken to church. “Most people never mention Brandon because they are afraid I might be hurt if they say the wrong thing. It fortifies me when someone asks me how he is.”
How can you show interest and love for someone you know who has a disability?
If we are sensitive to the Spirit and care for each other, we will discover many ways to help those with disabilities. One young woman with a serious behavior disorder loved having members of her Young Women class send her anonymous kind notes and small gifts. A sister who is blind appreciates members offering her rides to Church activities. A woman recovering from mental illness was pleased when a friend recommended her for part-time employment.
Those who care for others with serious disabilities often have great needs, as well. They may need physical, social, and emotional support. We can offer to stay with a disabled child for a few hours, stay with other children in the family while parents make a hospital visit, or provide rides to a doctor’s office. Including them in ward activities and offering assistance could help alleviate some of the stress they feel.
A mother of a child with a disability says, “My nature is to be optimistic and act as though I am in control. But I have one friend I can be honest with, and I have found it therapeutic to occasionally cry and let out my feelings.”
How could you help a disabled person or his or her family?