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16 posts categorized "Education/Advocacy"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Blog

Insight for Living’s Special Needs Ministries blog has a new address and a new look! Please change any bookmarks you may have to our new location:


This archived blog and its pages/urls will be phased out soon.

16 posts categorized "Education/Advocacy"

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What Would You Say with Only 18 Minutes?

By Colleen Swindoll Thompson

If you had 18 minutes to give the talk of your life, what would you say? I discovered the Web site TED not long ago; I’m addicted. “TED—Ideas Worth Spreading” stands for Technology, Education, Design. One of the fundamental principles of TED Talks is that a speaker has 18 minutes to express his or her ideas or thoughts on a particular field of study, specialized practice, accomplishment, or discovery.

Image courtesy of nattavut, published on 14 October 2011/

Having listened to some of the brightest researchers, leaders, educators, scientists, and specialists speak on everything from neurological fetal development to the value of failure, there is one universal theme woven into the fabric of these talks, which is why I’m hooked. Each speaker is on a quest for discovery. Regardless of his or her field of study, personal experiences, academic degrees, or intelligence quotient, this person wants to contribute and make a positive difference in the world.

So, if you had 18 minutes to give the talk of your life, what would you say?

Continue reading "What Would You Say with Only 18 Minutes?" »

16 posts categorized "Education/Advocacy"

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


By Colleen Swindoll Thompson

I had been sorting through stacks of papers for six hours; it was now 1:00 in the morning. Twelve years of my son Jon’s educational tests, medical reports, teachers’ notes, and therapy summaries—once organized in chronological order—had become stacked in disarray on my study shelves over time. Reviewing twelve years of material is overwhelming for most of us; for caregivers it can also be painful.

The silent message between the lines is the repeated acknowledgement that in this world, different usually means less than . . . not fit for this world . . . an underdog for life.

Additionally, the ever-present load of lingering parental self-doubt and guilt hangs overhead. Sorting through it all is an essential earthly endeavor for our loved one’s care, yet the calm and quiet voice of Christ calls us to remember there are no underdogs in His economy.

(Photo by Teak Sato, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Who’s in the Who’s Who?

I’ve yet to find a growth chart, I.Q. test, reading test, or writing sample that qualifies a person as acceptable in God’s eyes. Jesus never pulled together a group of “experts” who sat around tables making decisions about whom to include in the “in-crowd”; the Pharisees had that job covered. The Pharisees, with puffed-up heads and proud souls, made pathetically hypocritical judgments about “who’s who.” And we know how Christ felt about that bunch.

However, Christ went about His business, simply revealing what it meant, and means, to advocate with love for one another . . . let’s say, how to root for the underdog.

That's you and me.

Continue reading "Underdogs" »

16 posts categorized "Education/Advocacy"

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


by Colleen Swindoll Thompson


Sorting through a stack of stuff, I tried to pull a note from the bottom. When I did, the pile came apart. Short on time and shorter on patience, I attempted to bundle it all up until . . . until the photographs slipped out from an old scrapbook binder buried in the stack. Suddenly, I was 20 years younger with three small kids; a lifetime of memories came flooding in.

There was Ashley in her "Nala" costume, flat out on the couch after being at Disneyland for the day. Another of Ashley and Austin in their "101 Dalmatian" sweats I swore they would wear until death. Funny, kids don't wear their childhood costumes for life like so many young parents wish they would. Another picture was a snapshot of all three: Ashley at age 4 trying to read to a very disinterested Austin and Jonathan.

A couple other photos followed: some portraying life on "easy" street with just one very typical child (if there is one), several from Southern California beaches, and a few from the Texas State Fair where my husband and I were trying to carefully bond together our newly blended family.

As I viewed these photos, my spirit turned quiet, and I pondered the passageways of life that had been exacting and, at times, an unforgiving educator. Such is the education of life; it inevitably teaches us that good intentions don't always give back the desired results . . . the "best laid plans of mice and men."

What You Don't Say
Part of growing up means growing through tough seasons. Those who choose growth and wisdom are few, and, unfortunately, fewer know how to help others going through tough stuff. People will say some of the dumbest things to someone who is struggling. For example, here are things that no one should ever say to one who is hurting (and I've heard all of these):

"When are you going to get past that?"
"Don't you think you have talked enough about this?"
"Well, at least you have other 'normal' kids."
"God must have known you could handle something like this."
"God never gives us more than we can bear."

Those words do not help. They are like telling someone to whistle "Dixie" . . . while walking uphill, carrying a whopping 900-pound walrus on his or her back to a water fountain two miles up the road. Who cares about two miles up the road when life is totally falling apart where you are right now! Further, we don't know what is around the bend, so why do we assume to know what is around the corner for someone else?

What You Say
Wise words given and received during tough times can soften our souls. Proverbs 16:21–24 says:

The wise are known for their understanding, and pleasant words are persuasive. Discretion is a life-giving fountain to those who possess it, but discipline is wasted on fools. From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive. Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. (NLT)

If words are needed—and often they are not—and if you feel the need to say something, here are some simple ways to express concern as you come alongside someone in a tough spot:

"I am so sorry."
"I cannot imagine how hard it must be."
"How can I help?"
"What can I bring to your place . . . a meal, maybe some help with laundry or the yard?"
"What do you need?"
"That has to be so hard."

Today, do your words need some attention? Are you becoming a person of grace, and are others being comforted by a soul that has endured tough stuff?

Try These Resources
I would like to suggest the following Insight for Living Ministries resources found in our Web store:

Getting Through the Tough Stuff: It's Always Something! by Charles R. Swindoll, CD series
Becoming a People of Grace: An Exposition of Ephesians by Charles R. Swindoll, CD series
Paul: A Man of Grit and Grace by Charles R. Swindoll, hardcover book
So, You Want to Be Like Christ? A Musical Companion, CD

16 posts categorized "Education/Advocacy"

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

A Wake-Up Call

by Colleen Swindoll Thompson


A large percentage of those with disabilities struggle in silence because they have an “invisible” condition. Also called “hidden disabilities,” struggling people are often afraid to be open about their condition and work tirelessly at appearing healthy and happy. Those with such “hidden” disabilities struggle to endure their mental, physical, and emotional disorders specifically due to social judgment, harsh comments, assumptions, and accusations—all of which can lead to self-doubt and deep sorrow.

Unfortunately, a shocking aspect of disability ministry is that many non-typical families—families who have members with “invisible” disabilities—run from Christian communities. Why? Because the environment is often caustic and critical, lacking basic kindness and authentic grace. I do not believe most Christians wake up and wish to further injure someone already in pain. But I continue to find that ignorance, as well as a lack of seeking to understand one another, fuels many judgmental folks.

The Need to Wake Up

I address this directly because the agony is pervasive. I commonly speak with challenged individuals or families who have shared their personal agony of visiting or attending a Christian gathering only to receive insensitive or apathetic responses. Finding healing for the resulting wounds is extremely difficult for those already fighting painful and persistent challenges. So please, seek to understand others; take a few minutes to look up some of the more common ”invisible” disabilities listed at the end of this post. There is no test; there is nothing to fear except choosing to stay unmoved.

I have never written this directly to you before, but the need is pressing as the diagnosis rate for many of these disorders has skyrocketed in the last 10 years ( Thus, I am speaking without reservation. Every professing Christian needs to step up and become better learners and listeners. We must remember that as a result of our own broken condition, Christ left the throneroom of heaven and came to this earth. Sin is an “invisible” disability for which there remains no cure without Christ. What we cannot do for ourselves, God did by sending His Son to live, die, and rise again. Not a person on earth lives with an unbroken, perfect soul. Our names all appear on God’s disability care treatment list with God’s eternal plan of healing should we accept His gift of grace.

Maybe this is the first time you have heard that sin has caused your soul to be disabled. Please, sit with that this week. Allow the truth to sink in.

You are, because of sin, disabled.

When you begin to accept your own disability, giving grace to others is not even a second thought . . . it will flow out of you. So let‘s take this as a wake-up call and stop the wounding, the disasters, the breaking of already broken hearts and remember we are all disabled. God’s grace is the permanent healing remedy. Without it, the diagnosis is terminal. No relief. No hope.

I encourage you to find and read a simple overview of any of the topics listed below. It is my hope that you will learn to see past the “invisible” and into a person’s heart.

List of some mental and emotional disorders:

Autism Spectrum Disorders
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Bipolar Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder
Dissociative Disorders
Dual Diagnosis and Integrated Treatment of Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Disorder
Eating Disorders
Major Depression
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Panic Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Schizoaffective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Tourette's Syndrome

16 posts categorized "Education/Advocacy"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

One Step at a Time

One-step-at-a-time by Michael Woods

adapted by Colleen Swindoll Thompson

Don Bennett was on top of the world. He was wealthy; he owned a ranch, an eight-bedroom waterfront home on Mercer Island, and a ski chalet. Life was good, until everything changed. A boating accident resulted in Don losing his right leg; and while he was in the hospital, his business fell to pieces.

After his recovery, he became determined to do something that he had never done before: climb the 14,411-foot Mt. Rainier. With a team of four others, Don began a grueling one-year training regimen, and on July 15, 1982, he and his team began the climb. He climbed for four days, 13 hours a day, sometimes hopping, sometimes crawling up the incline on one leg. On July 18, 1982, Don Bennett touched the top . . . the first amputee ever to summit Mt. Rainier.

Don Bennett accomplished his goal because he identified one essential need: he had to have a support team. His dedicated, dependable, devout support team cared for his needs by helping him remain healthy, find support resources, and learn new skills, and by providing him counseling when he struggled.

God didn’t create us to live independently. This truth is clearly revealed when we are required to care for loved ones who have significant needs. In times like these, we must live interdependently . . . first by having Christ as Lord of our lives, then by humbly accepting the fact that we need one another to help us climb the mountains life places in our path.

Using the caregiving requirements of those with significant needs as our example, teamwork involves these four essentials:

1. Family and friends—Those who are closest to you can serve as your extended eyes, hands, and legs to help you get things done.

2. A general medical doctor—Find a doctor who has professional knowledge about your care-receiver’s special needs, such as autism, Down syndrome, dementia, and so on. Make sure he or she understands your child’s or dependent parent’s needs and is genuinely compassionate about your loved one’s condition. Remember, you are your loved one’s advocate. You want a capable and caring doctor on your team. Nothing less.

3. Training and support—There are a variety of excellent resource organizations that can provide educational materials, listings of support groups, caregiver resources—including information about after-school or adult-daycare programs—respite services, upcoming caregiver events, conferences, webinars, and links to a variety of further helps and supports.

4. The Internet—You’re going to want to do some “continuing education” online to learn all you can about the specific needs of the person you care for. Also, online support communities are priceless. Finding other folks who have similar circumstances as yours can provide a connection others can’t understand.¹


Michael Woods, M.A., is a single parent of three boys with autism, founder of Relational Crisis Prevention, contributing author of the Web site Special Needs Ministry, speaker, writer, and the administrator of the Facebook page Making Room.

Relational Crisis Prevention

Special Friends Ministry


1. Adapted from Michael Woods, “The Top 5 Ingredients of a Good Support Team,” Relational Crisis Prevention,, accessed September 26, 2011.

16 posts categorized "Education/Advocacy"

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

An Advocate

An-advocate by Colleen Swindoll Thompson

When I read this, I thought of you and all of us who care for loved ones in need.

An Advocate
by Charles R. Swindoll

Job is portrayed as “blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1) . . . and yet the bottom drops out of his world. He loses everything except his life and his wife.

The man’s misery knew no bounds.

Finally . . . there was no place to look but up; however, even then he felt shut out. He longed to approach God and pour out his woes, but the heavens were brass. Nothing. But. Silence.

What did Job need? An advocate . . . someone who could stand in his stead and represent him. The broken man wished for someone who would understand his predicament, take up his cause, and argue his case. Because he had no advocate, he felt hopeless and helpless, defenseless and depressed.

Victims need advocates. Often, those who are objects of abuse lack the courage or the ability to protect themselves. How important it is for others to come alongside and be their mouthpiece—to actually speak for them!

An advocate is someone who has authority—someone who will be heard and respected, where we would be ignored. The more passionate and complicated the issue, the more vital our need for a qualified go-between. Someone to carry our torch. Someone who understands the issues and is able to articulate the salient points of the argument.

Do you know someone who needs an advocate? Are you willing to step into that role?

A Note from Colleen: Caring for a dependent or disabled loved one means you are already an advocate. You determine what’s best, your love knows no bounds, and you’re there when that person needs someone to stand up for his or her needs. It’s a very tough responsibility, but it’s a necessary act of love.

I want you to know that I want to be an advocate for you! I care about you; I desire to encourage and empower you to be wise, to be steadfast, to be responsible, and to press through difficulties with respect for yourself and others.

Let’s press on together with grace and truth!

16 posts categorized "Education/Advocacy"

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to School


by Colleen Swindoll Thompson

It’s back-to-school time! I’m guessing some parents (including me) are delighted, and most kids are disappointed. Kids tend to ask lots of questions before school begins: “Will I be riding the bus?” “Who is my teacher?” “Are the kids nice?” “Do I wear regular clothes or a uniform?” But kids don’t ask questions just about school. I recently came across some very funny questions and comments from kids about God.
Here are a few:

  1. Dear God: In Sunday school they told us what You do. Who does it when You are on vacation? —Jane
  2. Dear God: Thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy. —Joyce
  3. Dear God: My brother is a rat. You should give him a tail. Ha ha. —Danny
  4. Dear God: I bet it is very hard for You to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in our family, and I can never do it. —Nan
  5. Dear God: We read that Thomas Edison made light. But in Sunday school they said You did it. So I bet he stole your idea. —Donna

Today, going to school is more complicated than it used to be—more bullying, disrespectfulness, anger, emotional problems, blame, and excuses. For the students with disabilities, school is often an unprotected and painful place.

Because my son is a student with noticeable disabilities, I ask the Lord many questions. My questions include:

  1. Lord, I’m terrified he will be bullied again. Will you calm my spirit and protect my son?
  2. Lord, will you bring aid to help him when he cannot do things on his own?
  3. Lord, will you please give him strength when he is exhausted?
  4. Lord, he doesn’t have friends; I grieve when I see him alone on the playground. Will you bring him a friend?

Maybe you have questions too. You can call on our Savior for help. He has not forgotten you. He is leading you, so walk by faith no matter how difficult it is. When your faith falters, He understands. We ask Him to guide us through our unbelief. I promise you, He answers every time. Meditate on the following verses of Scripture:

“The steadfast mind You will keep in perfect peace,
Because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1–2)

If I should say, “My foot has slipped,”
Your lovingkindness, O LORD, will hold me up.
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul. (94:18–19)


Other Resources:

  1. Special Words for Special People: Offering Grace to the Weary by Charles R. Swindoll (CD or MP3)
  2. Hope for the Hurting by Insight for Living (LifeMaps book)
  3. “Hope Beyond Our Trials: ‘When Through Fiery Trials . . .’” from the series Insights on 1 Peter: Hope Again: When Life Hurts and Dreams Fade by Charles R. Swindoll (CD or MP3)
  4. Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming alongside People Touched by Disability by Stephanie O. Hubach

16 posts categorized "Education/Advocacy"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Most Blessed

Most-blessed by Colleen Swindoll Thompson

Courage is not natural to one’s character. But it can appear when a person is forced to face fears and depend on Christ. My suffering with a disability has cultivated within me courageous character. I am blessed.

My struggle with being misunderstood because of my disability has cultivated within me grace and mercy. I am blessed.

Being hearing impaired has caused me many sorrows. Yet, I am able to hear God’s voice without distraction. I am blessed.

Those who are visually impaired cannot see God’s creation—the beauty of nature, the joy of a smile, the sadness of a tear, the fascination of colors, nor the uniqueness of another person. However, my perspective, my imagination, and my need to touch reach to the core of my soul. I am blessed.

People who suffer with pain or disabilities depend on others. Over time, this has revealed my pride, transforming and humbling my character. I am blessed.

I know my disability might cause others to feel awkward, uncomfortable, and even fearful. Yet, because of this distance, I am vastly aware of God’s presence. I am blessed.

The parking sign for the disabled that hangs in every lot bothers many non-disabled people, but they may miss the wonderful truth that Christ welcomes us all to the throne of grace, which is never far away. I am blessed.

Most people who suffer or are disabled need help each day to do what most people do without thinking. In this dependent state, I am deeply connected to all God’s promises for those who depend on Him. I am blessed.

Few disabilities are curable, yet because of my struggle, I am acquainted with humanity’s broken condition and not bound by shame or fear. As a result, my soul is filled with authentic freedom and God’s unconditional acceptance. I am blessed.

The challenges I face in this life have allowed me to recognize how profoundly I am blessed by Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord.

Yes, I am most blessed.

16 posts categorized "Education/Advocacy"

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Creatures of Habit

ArrowGraphic_sm2by Colleen Swindoll Thompson

I am definitely a creature of habit, and maybe you are too. A habit provides a sense of security and simplicity. Studies show that with persistence and patience a habit can be created in about 30 days.

However, sometimes we have harmful habits that hinder our spiritual growth. Consider for a moment what you believe about other people. Do you set certain conditions that must be met before you will accept others? Do you reject or judge others based upon their appearance, mannerisms, attendance or involvement in church, how their children behave?

I recently surveyed a few people who live with chronic pain, are divorced, are depressed, have an invisible disability, or are grieving the loss of a loved one. I asked them to comment on how they are treated by professing Christians. I’m going to be candid here: 99 percent replied they have been rejected, judged, or looked down upon because they didn’t “fit in.” The pain from such judgment has caused almost all of these folks to stop interacting with other Christians.

As creatures of habit, where you sit in church is vastly important. Why? Well, one out of every two people have some sort of disabling condition, meaning someone to your right or left will most likely fit this description. That is tough to swallow until we highlight some great news. We may be creatures of habit, but our habits don’t have to be set in concrete. We can choose to form new habits. And if we start developing habits based on biblical truths rather than personal preference, revolutionary changes can happen within the Christian body!

Below is a list of the top three relational needs reported by people who suffer from a disabling condition. Next to each need is a biblical truth as to how to respond. The third column lists habits we need to develop. I urge you to examine the need, seek to learn God’s direction from His Word, and then create habits which put truth into action. Being a creature of habit is great, if the habit is grounded in God’s timeless truth.