Spiritual Needs of People with Developmental Disabilities

Many people with DD are highly spiritual and have a deep connection to their religion and places of worship. In many communities, churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples are being closed to prevent the spread of the virus.

Rabbi Jackie Redner of Vista del Mar Children and Family Services offers this advice:

“In times of crisis, we receive so much information on how to keep our bodies physically safe or how to prepare our homes. Our souls’ and hearts’ needs are often overlooked during stressful times. But religion and ritual have always been part of humanity’s toolbox for handling crisis. Right now, public gatherings, including in places of worship, are considered a public safety risk. For people who depend on these gatherings for heartful connection and spiritual peace, it’s important to hold religious services as best they can at home. Here are some things to try:

1. Attend virtually. Modern technological miracles let us stay connected with each other even when we’re not in the same room. There are millions of spiritual videos and podcasts available online. Many places of worship are livestreaming services for their faithful. Consider getting in touch with your faith community through email, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Zoom, or YouTube Livestream.

2. Change your rituals for home worship. Many find it calming to perform familiar religious rituals such praying the rosary, blessing our children, lighting Sabbath candles, saying blessings over food, or reciting prayers before bed. All of these rituals remind the stressed-out body and mind that peace and joy are not only possible, but that they are essential to our overall sense of wellness and wellbeing.

If you are missing other parts of your worship services, you can adapt:

  • Try singing religious music on the phone in a group call with family or friends!  
  • Build a home altar with meaningful religious objects, flowers, or photos. This can direct our hearts and minds away from the stresses of external life.

Finally, it is important to stay connected with others. Reach out to your clergy, lay leaders, family, and friends for support. Most humans, regardless of abilities or special needs, love to be of service and need to be of service.  It feels good to have agency and to be able to support another. These things are empowering to the heart and soul, and some of the great blessings of being human. “