By Kate Awtrey
Published on February 8, 2011 by North Druid Hills Patch
“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world,” the Briarlake Baptist Church’s special needs class sang on Sunday.
Every Sunday the class meets at 10 a.m. to sing, sign, celebrate birthdays and take prayer requests before they head to individual small group Bible studies.
Two classes are provided for the special group: one for students who can read and the other for students with more intense disabilities. The curriculum is visual and interesting, and students also participate in crafts.
“Many of the young people want to go to Miss Helen Lenkerd’s class because she’s amazing with the crafts. It gives them something they can take home,” said Marilyn Haynes, a parent and Sunday school teacher at Briarlake Baptist.
“It started with a grandmother who had a child with special needs,” said Haynes.
Now 40 years later the class has approximately 60 people including students and caregivers.
“We continue to grow,” said Linda Weaver, the class music director. “Our group has doubled since August. The need is huge and desperate.”
Weaver explained that her daughter suffered from multiple birth defects and was predicted not to live into adulthood but did.
“We found with Elena that she could continue to learn and progress,” said Weaver. “When we got involved with the Briarlake class, we found that the same thing could happen for them. They can continue to learn and progress. It takes time and lots of patience, but it does happen.”
Weaver teaches sign language to worship songs during the class.
“The children learn through the repetition and hands on attention,” said Haynes.
Besides the Sunday school class the group participates in several activities, including the Little Light of Mine choir in which the students perform at neighboring churches as well as the Special Olympics. Weaver directs as the group shares the Beatitudes.
The special group is always seeking helpers.
“The need is great and so much can be done with dedicated volunteers,” said Weaver.
“Between Special Olympics and Briarlake, I don’t know what our family would do without them,” said Weaver about the special group. “We would definitely be a different family, with a lot more stress and sadness in our home.”