“Learn to do what is right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17
After her son was diagnosed with Autism, Mae* realized that little support was available in her area for children with special needs and their families. So, she set out to take a stand on behalf of the vulnerable, to demonstrate that these children have God given potential and worth. In 2007 she started In His Image with the mission of providing wholistic education and support to children with disabilities and their families so that they can achieve their God-given potential and to create awareness in the community for constructive response and engagement.
Care for the Whole Child
In His Image is different in many ways than other disability centers in India. It provides all the different therapies and interventions needed to help develop these children under one roof. At the In His Image center each child is treated with dignity and respect, because we believe that each child is created in the image of God and for a purpose. Rather than focusing on what the children cannot do, we focus on the abilities that these children do have. We love the children as our own brothers and sisters and want to see them reach their full potential. Although the staff at In His Image come from diverse backgrounds, they have all been trained in a Biblical worldview of disabilities. They all agree that these children are a blessing, and created in the image of God.
Students at In His Image are between the ages of four and twenty-three. Their day begins at 9:00 am, and they remain at the center until 1:00 pm. Throughout the day, students receive one-on-one treatments and participate in group learning activities. They also take time to sing and exercise. Each student has therapies and classes that are calibrated to their individual needs. In order to do this well, In His Image maintains a ratio of one special education teacher and one teacher’s assistant for every four students at the center.
Support for Families and Communities
In addition to addressing the needs of the child, the In His Image Center works with families and communities. We understand that one need of differently-abled people is for the community around them to be aware of the issues they face and equipped to intervene when needed.
Many people in Delhi are interested in becoming more aware of the issues surrounding autism. In order to meet this need, In His Image offers various workshops and trainings for communities, organizations, and schools. To date we have led more than 40 trainings that include foundational truths and best practices for working with the differently-abled.
In His Image offers support to families through counseling, home visits and support groups. These opportunities help parents to see their special needs children as a blessing and not a curse. Through counseling, workshops, and awareness building In His Image is encouraging families to take pride in the child’s development. Some parents also take time to volunteer at the center to learn how to better care for their child, that is where we pick up with Kay’s story.
I invited Kay to start volunteering at the center so she could learn how to care for her child. Eagerly she agreed. As the weeks passed, Kay asked more and more questions about how to help her daughter. She also stopped blaming herself for her daughters disabilities. Her questions were now, “How can I improve to help my child?” She was seeking to empower her daughter. “She will need a job. How can I prepare her for it?” Instead of becoming discouraged by negative comments from her family, Kay would say, “My daughter is special in God’s sight.”
The woman that I saw emerging before my very eyes was indeed a miracle. She was starting to see the value in herself and in her daughter. The word ‘bechari’ (poor thing) slowly vanished from her vocabulary.
Eventually I invited Kay to come to the teachers’ worship service. At the end of the service she longingly looked at the New Testament. “Do you want to take it home and read it,” I asked. “Yes, can I?” “Of course.” Now she reads the Bible to her daughter every day and asks us to pray for her regularly.
Kay is training to be a special educator to work with other children like her daughter and to help other parents see the value in their children as made in the image of God. She has come a long way from the disheveled, harassed looking mother who thought she was to be blamed for giving birth to a mentally disabled daughter. The truth of God’s word always transforms. It is a testimony of the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes!
Kay’s story is one example of the power of God’s truth. By sharing God’s love with differently-abled children, their parents, and the surrounding community In His Image is helping bring change in the perception of children with disabilities in India. We pray that In His Image will be an example for other disability centers in India and around the world.*Name changed