Gavin is a Child of God

Gavin videoWhen he started fifth grade this year, Gavin VanDerVeer’s teachers at Grand Haven Christian School (Grand Haven, MI) were trying to determine his goals in the area of spiritual growth.  “Often, we don’t know what students with Down syndrome will really get until we try,” Cindy Brace shares. “We wanted him to learn bible memory like the other students, but his would need to be shorter.” CLC Network encourages teachers to determine the most important idea that a child needs to understand, rather than memorization when a child has a cognitive impairment. Brace recalls,

“So we took the most important idea that Gavin needed to learn and turned that into his bible memory for the year.”

In order to teach Gavin the idea, his teachers started with a flashcard reading program on the iPad and with the sign language for “I am a child of God.”  Gavin has a routine – when the flashcard pops up with the word “Jesus” he finishes it with “loves me.”  With the next flashcard for “God”, Gavin then says his bible memory: “I am a child of God.” Now, Gavin signs and says “I am a child of God” spontaneously. Cindy recalls when she recorded this video:

“We were doing math the other day and he just started saying this. That’s when it hit me, he’s got it! So I took the video and he was proud to watch it, too. Now he says it often.”

Your contributions this year enabled CLC Network to help Gavin and other students with disabilities learn in their Christian schools.  We are deeply grateful for your support, and encourage you to consider CLC Network in your charitable contributions this season.

Elizabeth Dombrowski photo

Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski is the advancement director at CLC Network

Sharing Jesus with a Child with Down Syndrome, Part 2

Earlier this week, Barbara J. Newman introduced us to a few tips for sharing the love of Jesus with a person with Down syndrome (if you missed it, read it here). She will continue with some fun & helpful ideas for sharing your faith. 

Be creative. How can you use the areas love and interest we brainstormed earlier this week to make the introduction? While the possibilities are endless, here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

  • Church Drama TeamMake a photo album. Put in a photo of Jesus and then pictures of you doing things with Him and for Him. Share this with your child often and explain how Jesus gotto be your best friend and your Savior. Perhaps as your child develops that relationship, he can have his own photo album to share. Some images you could include in the album:
    • Raising your hands as you sing to give him a hug,
    • Kneeling beside your bed to talk to him each night
    • Reading the Bible and learning all about His life
    • Hugging a sad person because Jesus asked you to do that for Him
  • Does your teen enjoy playing Capture the Flag? Put out one of the jail bases and the middle line that separates the two teams. In the Jesus capture the flag, we all get sent to jail for the things we do that make God sad (sin).  Jesus is the only way out of “jail”. When we say, “Jesus I love you. I don’t want to stay in this sin jail. I’m sorry”, Jesus comes to tag us and give us a free walk back to His team. Once we are on the Jesus team, we always get to stay on that team.
  • The Easter Book imageFind a Bible or Bible story at the interest level of your child. Read the salvation story, watch it on a video, act it out with wooden figures or puppets, or discover some iPad applications that help your child interact with the story. Make sure you treat this story differently than any other on your shelf. Treasure the book or item in front of your child. Let them know it’s the very best book ever – and it’s all true. Show the adoration and love you have for Jesus as you get ready to recreate that story of what Jesus did for us.

Keep the celebration going. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Friends at a CelebrationAs your child says “yes” to Jesus and to loving Him, remember the date. Let your child know that every year you will celebrate 2 birthdays – the day she was born in the hospital and then the day she was born with Jesus. This gives you a time each year to celebrate that relationship in a special way.
  • Use holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter as a chance for your child to think about getting Jesus a present. What might Jesus like? Sing a song that tells Jesus “I love you.” Make a video of your child dancing to a favorite worship song. Take a photo of your child and let her know that if Jesus had a refrigerator, this picture would be on it!

It’s my hope and prayer that this list of ideas will be a place to begin as you think of meaningful ways to introduce Jesus to your child. Remember, as God created each and every person, He also made each one able to connect and enter into a relationship with Him. I am encouraged daily by my students and friends with Down syndrome who have a vibrant and living relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Barbara J. Newman photoBarbara J. Newman is a church and school consultant for CLC Network and a special education teacher at Zeeland Christian School. She is the author of numerous books, including her latest, Nuts & Bolts of Inclusive Education. She is a frequent national speaker at educational conferences and churches. Contact Barbara at