Baptism/Communion and the child with Special Needs

In the LDS culture children are baptized at the age of 8.  When Mormons baptize someone, it’s by full immersion.  If even your hair rises to the top, they dunk you again.

I was baptized in the Mediterranean Sea while my family was living in Turkey.  On the third time I was finally relaxed enough to trust that nobody was going to hold me down for longer than the mere moment needed, and finally they declared me baptized.

People are already starting to ask what our plans on for Parker and getting baptized.  This is a pretty personal question that any LDS parent (as well as members of other denominations) of a child with special needs/cognitive delay will answer differently.  There are no one size fits all answer.  The best answer depends on your family and your child.

For Parker, a kid who doesn’t even go to church because of his health, walking him down into a baptism font and then dipping him backwards under water would do nothing more than scare the beejeebers out of him.  Not exactly the most faith building kind of experience.

That’s where we are right now. I’m fine with this.  If Parker were able to grasp the understanding of what baptism means, things would be different.

My religion teaches that before Parker came to earth, his eternal progression had superseded mine.  He didn’t need to have the same experiences I need to have in order to return with honor to the presence of my Father in Heaven.  The Spirit tells me Parker’s role is that of a teacher, providing opportunities for our family to learn lessons we could have mastered no other way.

Parker’s life, as well as the lives of others born with disabilities provide all of us with the opportunity to show our true characters.  Something I believe God does pay attention to.

If Parker’s cognitive abilities where at the point where he understood the meaning of baptism, my feelings might be different.  Especially if he were in a church class of his peers who were also preparing for baptism.

There’s nothing that says my kid can’t be baptized when he’s older and understands more. My heart tells me that he’s already got a one way ticket into the presence of God, formal baptism or not.

The BBC Breakfast News is reporting on a young man with Down syndrome who has been denied his first Holy Communion because he lacks the “concentration” necessary to prepare for Communion, according to the BBC. The Diocese also said children can “only proceed to the sacrament of First Communion when they take part in the Church’s life and understand the Church’s faith”.

The parents are upset and feel as though their child is being singled out simply because of the extra chromosome.  Their son attends a mainstream church class with his peers who are preparing to receive their first communion.  They feel their son is bright, and while not able to grasp every nuance within the Catholic religion, does understand the meaning of communion.

You can

Here’s the interview compliments of YouTube:

What do you think?  What are your plans for baptism/communion/other religious rites of passage for your child with cognitive delays?  Again, I don’t believe their are any right or wrong answers, just what is best for your child and your family’s beliefs.


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