Being Present Versus Having a Presence: Dimensions of Belonging for Young People with Disabilities and Their Families

From: Volume 13, Issue 1: Spring 2016, Christian Education and Special Needs Ministry Pages 127-146


Faith communities aspire to be places of healing, hope, and healthy relationships that bring life to every member. For individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families, finding a place of belonging within such a community can have great importance. In this qualitative study, we explored the experiences of belonging among 25 parents who were involved in a local church and had a son or daughter with IDD. We present 10 dimensions of belonging that reflect a trajectory of deepening relationship—beginning with being present and culminating in being loved. We discuss implications of this framework for cultivating inclusive communities and offer recommendations for future research at the intersection of faith and disability.

Keywords: faith, autism, inclusion, social relationships, religion




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