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Meeting special needs

How one woman’s availability to a child with special needs transformed the whole family

by Kelly Funk

As first-time parents, Tracey and Lindy Fackler were unsure as to why their son, Joshua, seemed to be so different than his peers. Without any answers, they coped by withdrawing. “We just stopped taking him anywhere,” Lindy recalls. “There was a long period of time when I did not go to church. It was a very isolating, sad time.”

But as Joshua neared his third birthday, they followed through on a suggestion from a family member and had him evaluated for autism. When Joshua tested positive, the Facklers were relieved to have an explanation for the challenges that had been affecting their family for years, and they became determined to find ways to help him grow.

The family returned to their church, Palmyra (Pa.) BIC, but since Joshua needed one-on-one help in Sunday School, Lindy became his constant shadow. After failing to see any progress in Joshua, and having not sat in church with Tracey for almost five years, Lindy realized her son needed someone other than herself to help him on Sunday mornings. In the summer of 2009, before Joshua’s transition into Kindergarten Sunday School, Lindy and Tracey wrote a letter to select church members asking for help.

A couple months later, the Facklers received an enthusiastic response from Melody Vanderveer, who, as the mother of a son with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), has a heart for children with special needs. Melody offered to be Joshua’s Sunday morning one-on-one support, or “partner,” as the children affectionately call her.

What started as a one-month arrangement is now beginning its second year. Since Melody began working with Joshua in September 2009, he has shown significant growth. Melody calls Joshua “the encourager” and rejoices in his spiritual development. Lindy adds, “He prays now. My 6-year-old has a spiritual life. . . . It’s a huge step.”

As Melody and the Facklers celebrate Joshua’s successes together, they hope to see more churches adopt the ministry of matching those with special needs with willing volunteers. “Sometimes asking for help is the hardest part . . . but what Melody says is no big thing has had a huge impact on our family,” Lindy affirms. “It has absolutely changed the course of our family’s life.”

This article originally appeared in the winter 2010 issue of In Part magazine.

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