by Jill Schafhauser
For the past year, I’ve been working with children, teens, and adults as a behavior consultant through a government waiver program in the U.S. I’ve learned so much more about the needs of parents, students, and adults with disabilities now that I’m outside the walls of a school building and in homes and the community. One of the glaring lessons is about loneliness.
Several of my clients are adults. Honestly, I love working with adults. They drive the bus on how they want programming to look and what their needs are. I love getting FaceTime calls from my clients telling me what they are thinking about doing during our weekly sessions. One of the reasons my clients enjoy time with me is not just my winning personality but also because I am free transportation!
As I work with clients on their personal behavior goals and hopes for the future, the sentiment I hear over and over is around wanting to have healthy relationships that meet needs for love and belonging. Bottom line, my clients are lonely. My colleagues’ clients are lonely. There are several issues that complicate finding friends for adults with behavior related-disabilities. Sometimes the flexibility required for hanging out with others is difficult. Also, transportation can be time-consuming, costly, or rely on the availability of others. Meeting new people is difficult for most people, but because many of my clients don’t work outside of their home, belong to a fellowship, or participate in other social groups, making connecting with others naturally is nearly impossible. Additionally, my clients have unpredictable behavior and mental health needs which can be surprising and uncomfortable at times.
As a believer, many of my relationships and social opportunities come from my fellowship. In trying to find places for my clients to connect, my first instinct is to look at local fellowship options. Unfortunately, I find myself hesitating. I wonder if my clients will be accepted in the young adults’ groups at any of our local places. Will anyone take the time to pursue them and learn how incredible they can be with the right supports and a little patience? Would I do that if I were the person in a group with someone who seemed different than me? Should the Master Teacher’s family not be the first place someone with needs turns to be welcomed? As a believer, chasing after the Master Teacher, should I not be willing to be a bit more tolerant in helping people feel accepted?
Is this the paragraph that answers the questions posed above? No, it is not. These questions still bounce around my brain daily. As I try to help clients have access to activities for gaining new social skills and meeting quality humans, I ponder how the local fellowship should be moving to truly meet the needs of people. Master Teacher, help me see people through your eyes and with your heart.
What’s your perspective?
We welcome your comments on any of the ideas in this post or in answer to the questions below.
- How are we attracting young adults to our fellowship? As we perhaps try to be seeker friendly in a hip and cool manner, are we creating an atmosphere that excludes those who struggle with hip and cool?
- As we consider a call to serve the least of these, how uncomfortable are we willing to be in our pursuit?
- How do you cope with loneliness? Who has reached out to you in a time of need when perhaps you were not your easiest self? Have you thanked that person? It’s never too late.
Jill Schafhauser is a behavior consultant for a support services company in Indiana in the United States. Jill has served people with behavior-related disabilities for more than twenty-five years. The Schafhausers (Ryan, Jill, Grady, and Derek) love the Master Teacher and welcome opportunities to build the kingdom daily.
Photo by Pixabay.
Jill, this is an excellent article! What a blessing your are to so many! I knew there was something special about you when I worked with several years ago. You heart for children was so strong and amazing! God has truly put you where He knows you belong. How wonderful that you are doing His work and helping others. Blessings to you on this amazing career journey.
Great article friend. You pose some good questions that leave me thinking differently. ❤️ Thanks for the perspective and for honoring God with your wisdom and words. 😉