P.R.A.I.S.E. (Protestant Reformed Applications In Special Education)

Mr. VanOverloop is a member of the Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonvill, MIchigan and a member of the Special Education Board.

This article is an appeal to all of us to learn about and better understand Protestant Reformed Special Education. The article is written to all of us and is meant to be educational and motivational. There is a Society for Protestant Reformed Special Education. It was started some time ago. The society/board has and does support many different aspects in our day schools. The foundation for the society is covenantal and a beautiful picture of the communion of the saints. It has and does receive great support from across the United States and Canada. This society is a marvelous gift of God. The society has been and is being blessed but has a great need. 

The society started as a meeting in Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church in the early 1980s. The idea for such a society was a brainchild of Rev. VanBaren and Professor Hoeksema along with their wives. The initial meeting was held with a board being elected. The purpose and goal of the society is summed up in this constitutional mandate, "The purpose of this society is to provide God-centered education for those who cannot at the present time receive instruction in our present schools because of mental and/or physical handicaps." This board set out to raise funds, find a teacher, and communicate with parents of children who were not attending a Protestant Reformed School because of learning disabilities. They also communicated with the denomination as a whole. A couple of years later a room was provided in one of our schools, with a special education teacher, along with 3-4 children. 

Since then the society has supported a teacher in Lynden, Washington; a program in Loveland, Colorado; and a resource room at Eastside, Adams, Hope, Covenant, and Heritage Christian Schools in west Michigan. The programs are Resource Room in nature. Children in these rooms typically do not have a higher level of needs. These children would therefore attend a Protestant Reformed School even if the Special Ed society did not exist. Are the children in our Resource Rooms benefiting from the work of this society? Yes. 

Are the children's school experiences enhanced by their work in these Resource Rooms? Yes. The society's mandate, as expressed in its statement of purpose, has been the education of a number of children with higher learning difficulties. These children's labels include Learning Disabled, Autism, Downs Syndrome, etc. 

Protestant Reformed Special Education's main thrust is financial. It raises money to help fund the above programs. There have been numerous teachers, aides, and volunteers to date. Hundreds of children have been touched by this society and board. Not only has and does the society fulfill its mandate, but it does much more. Children who need help have it available with much more concentration and focus than in the past. The different programs supported are being improved each year with a view to narrowing the knowledge gap between the special-ed child and the regular-ed child. Most amazing it is when, after many different children are given diagnostic tests, followed by appropriate remedial help, some of them actually overcome their difficulties.

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them,

Mark 10:13-16.

We should all thank the teachers, aides, and volunteers who "suffer" our children. We should thank, too, the "regular ed" children of our school, because they are an important aspect of educating those children with large learning disabilities. Many a teacher can testify to the support and help provided by children of our schools in this program. Often the support, helping hand, kind and gentle words, and quiet admonishing of a child to a child with special needs is most powerful. Parents, be encouraged to teach your children why children with severe needs are and should be a part of our schools. Also, encourage your child, as a member of the body of Christ, to help the teacher with children with special needs when asked.

The society has received much money over the years in order to support these programs. The Lord has given the society willing men to labor for this effort. God be praised for His gift of Protestant Reformed Special Education and His guiding hand in its existence.

Why should Protestant Reformed Special Education be supported? One reason is the covenant. The mysterious bond of friendship within the Trinity has been extended as a precious gift to those most undeserved. God as our Friend has spoken it in eternity. He, majestically sovereign, all powerful, all glorious, takes us to Himself in His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He gathers us in His arms, puts His hands on us, and blesses us with everything we need for our earthly pilgrimage. We struggle often to get out of His arms, yet they are unrelenting. We hate Him, are ashamed of Him, neglect His love letters to us, yet He loves us. Incomprehensible, unbelievable, amazing!!! We hear His covenant in the preaching of His Word, we taste it at the Supper, we see it all around us, we touch it at baptism. Yes, we touch it when we hold our child forth to receive the sign that God saves us in our generations. We are asked at baptism, "Whether you promise and intend to see these children, when come to the years of discretion (whereof you are either parent or witness), instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause them to be instructed therein to the utmost of your power?" We see and hear, at baptism, the need for educating our children on the basis of God's Word. We see and hear, at baptism, the need for educating our children in an institution that is an extension of our homes. Ought this not to be true for the child with special needs too? "Suffer the little children...." 

The other reason for supporting Protestant Reformed Special Education is based on the communion of the saints.

Nay, much more those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon those we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part that lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it,

I Cor. 12:22-26.

Prof. David Engelsma, in his book Reformed Education, speaks of I Corinthians 12:23 in this way:

The school is for all the covenant children. It is not for the bright or college-bound children only. The covenantal character of the school would demand that special attention be paid to the inferior student. In the kingdom, the law is that we "bestow more abundant honor" on the "less honorable" members of the body" (p. 18).

Also, brotherly love is addressed in Hebrews 13:1, 3b. "Let brotherly love continue. Remember... them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body." 

How can you support Protestant Reformed Special Education? First is prayer. Pray for those involved in this amazing work: the parents, teachers, aides and volunteers, the children with the special needs, and the children that will interact with them. Another way is to be involved in some way with these children—if not at school, then in some other way socially. Faith Protestant Reformed Young People's Special Needs program or the Grand Rapids area Christian Fellowship Group are two shining examples of how our young people and young adults can enrich the lives of children and themselves. 

Also, continued financial support is needed. The society has never lacked for money to support the programs. But the need is always there. It is your generous gifts that allow it to happen. 

Last, and hardly the least, of the society's needs is members. The society needs your help in this way: to become a member and to attend its annual meetings. The society is too small, at 50 men, and with only half attending the meetings. You are needed because the cause is important to all of us. Your school is affected by this society. Your children are affected by this society, either directly through its programs or by your child(ren) attending a school affected by this society's programs. The burden of this society cannot rest in the hands of a very few. More are needed to hold up and support this little institution that is so broad in scope. Please consider this need. 

In conclusion, special needs children are God's gift to us, just as all children are. They are not our children, they are His. We know this from what He tells us each Sunday. And in His Word we have read it. All our institutions— home, school, and church— have recognized the fact that these children are ours to care for and nurture. Let our actions "suffer" these special children. God is praised when we care for them. He is honored when the gift of grace we receive is so overpowering. Praise Him!

Mr. VanOverloop is a member of the Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonvill, MIchigan and a member of the Special Education Board.

This article is an appeal to all of us to learn about and better understand Protestant Reformed Special Education. The article is written to all of us and is meant to be educational and motivational. There is a Society for Protestant Reformed Special Education. It was started some time ago. The society/board has and does support many different aspects in our day schools. The foundation for the society is covenantal and a beautiful picture of the communion of the saints. It has and does receive great support from across the United States and Canada. This society is a marvelous gift of God. The society has been and is being blessed but has a great need. 

The society started as a meeting in Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church in the early 1980s. The idea for such a society was a brainchild of Rev. VanBaren and Professor Hoeksema along with their wives. The initial meeting was held with a board being elected. The purpose and goal of the society is summed up in this constitutional mandate, "The purpose of this society is to provide God-centered education for those who cannot at the present time receive instruction in our present schools because of mental and/or physical handicaps." This board set out to raise funds, find a teacher, and communicate with parents of children who were not attending a Protestant Reformed School because of learning disabilities. They also communicated with the denomination as a whole. A couple of years later a room was provided in one of our schools, with a special education teacher, along with 3-4 children. 

Since then the society has supported a teacher in Lynden, Washington; a program in Loveland, Colorado; and a resource room at Eastside, Adams, Hope, Covenant, and Heritage Christian Schools in west Michigan. The programs are Resource Room in nature. Children in these rooms typically do not have a higher level of needs. These children would therefore attend a Protestant Reformed School even if the Special Ed society did not exist. Are the children in our Resource Rooms benefiting from the work of this society? Yes. 

Are the children's school experiences enhanced by their work in these Resource Rooms? Yes. The society's mandate, as expressed in its statement of purpose, has been the education of a number of children with higher learning difficulties. These children's labels include Learning Disabled, Autism, Downs Syndrome, etc. 

Protestant Reformed Special Education's main thrust is financial. It raises money to help fund the above programs. There have been numerous teachers, aides, and volunteers to date. Hundreds of children have been touched by this society and board. Not only has and does the society fulfill its mandate, but it does much more. Children who need help have it available with much more concentration and focus than in the past. The different programs supported are being improved each year with a view to narrowing the knowledge gap between the special-ed child and the regular-ed child. Most amazing it is when, after many different children are given diagnostic tests, followed by appropriate remedial help, some of them actually overcome their difficulties.

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them,

Mark 10:13-16.

We should all thank the teachers, aides, and volunteers who "suffer" our children. We should thank, too, the "regular ed" children of our school, because they are an important aspect of educating those children with large learning disabilities. Many a teacher can testify to the support and help provided by children of our schools in this program. Often the support, helping hand, kind and gentle words, and quiet admonishing of a child to a child with special needs is most powerful. Parents, be encouraged to teach your children why children with severe needs are and should be a part of our schools. Also, encourage your child, as a member of the body of Christ, to help the teacher with children with special needs when asked.

The society has received much money over the years in order to support these programs. The Lord has given the society willing men to labor for this effort. God be praised for His gift of Protestant Reformed Special Education and His guiding hand in its existence.

Why should Protestant Reformed Special Education be supported? One reason is the covenant. The mysterious bond of friendship within the Trinity has been extended as a precious gift to those most undeserved. God as our Friend has spoken it in eternity. He, majestically sovereign, all powerful, all glorious, takes us to Himself in His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He gathers us in His arms, puts His hands on us, and blesses us with everything we need for our earthly pilgrimage. We struggle often to get out of His arms, yet they are unrelenting. We hate Him, are ashamed of Him, neglect His love letters to us, yet He loves us. Incomprehensible, unbelievable, amazing!!! We hear His covenant in the preaching of His Word, we taste it at the Supper, we see it all around us, we touch it at baptism. Yes, we touch it when we hold our child forth to receive the sign that God saves us in our generations. We are asked at baptism, "Whether you promise and intend to see these children, when come to the years of discretion (whereof you are either parent or witness), instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause them to be instructed therein to the utmost of your power?" We see and hear, at baptism, the need for educating our children on the basis of God's Word. We see and hear, at baptism, the need for educating our children in an institution that is an extension of our homes. Ought this not to be true for the child with special needs too? "Suffer the little children...." 

The other reason for supporting Protestant Reformed Special Education is based on the communion of the saints.

Nay, much more those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon those we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part that lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it,

I Cor. 12:22-26.

Prof. David Engelsma, in his book Reformed Education, speaks of I Corinthians 12:23 in this way:

The school is for all the covenant children. It is not for the bright or college-bound children only. The covenantal character of the school would demand that special attention be paid to the inferior student. In the kingdom, the law is that we "bestow more abundant honor" on the "less honorable" members of the body" (p. 18).

Also, brotherly love is addressed in Hebrews 13:1, 3b. "Let brotherly love continue. Remember... them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body." 

How can you support Protestant Reformed Special Education? First is prayer. Pray for those involved in this amazing work: the parents, teachers, aides and volunteers, the children with the special needs, and the children that will interact with them. Another way is to be involved in some way with these children—if not at school, then in some other way socially. Faith Protestant Reformed Young People's Special Needs program or the Grand Rapids area Christian Fellowship Group are two shining examples of how our young people and young adults can enrich the lives of children and themselves. 

Also, continued financial support is needed. The society has never lacked for money to support the programs. But the need is always there. It is your generous gifts that allow it to happen. 

Last, and hardly the least, of the society's needs is members. The society needs your help in this way: to become a member and to attend its annual meetings. The society is too small, at 50 men, and with only half attending the meetings. You are needed because the cause is important to all of us. Your school is affected by this society. Your children are affected by this society, either directly through its programs or by your child(ren) attending a school affected by this society's programs. The burden of this society cannot rest in the hands of a very few. More are needed to hold up and support this little institution that is so broad in scope. Please consider this need. 

In conclusion, special needs children are God's gift to us, just as all children are. They are not our children, they are His. We know this from what He tells us each Sunday. And in His Word we have read it. All our institutions— home, school, and church— have recognized the fact that these children are ours to care for and nurture. Let our actions "suffer" these special children. God is praised when we care for them. He is honored when the gift of grace we receive is so overpowering. Praise Him!