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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mom provides special classes and activities for kids with special needs


I have always been amazed at the parents I meet who have kids with special needs. What amazes me is their involvement in their child’s life and how much they do to make sure their child has as much of a normal life as possible like other kids their age.
The Duart Family at Epcot
I can only imagine how challenging it is each day, but also how rewarding it can be to raise a child with special needs. One of my friends Linda Duart has a daughter, Kendal,17, who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autistic features. Kendal is the oldest of Linda and her husband Jeff’s three children. The other two are boys Ryan, 15 and Zach, 9.
Linda is her daughter’s caregiver almost 24/7. As you can imagine, not everywhere you go is accommodating to kids with special needs. I know we have come a long way, but if it weren’t for mom’s like Linda taking part and helping provide services for special needs kids, children like Kendal and others wouldn’t be able to experience what other kids there age get to do.
It melted my heart one day to see Kendal and some other special needs children be able to go in a bounce house one day at an activity during the summer vacation bible school. You see Kendal is confined to a wheelchair and to see her bouncing and laughing like the other kids was truly a blessing. 
It didn’t hit me until I saw Kendal in the bounce house, how I take for granted even something as simple as my kids bouncing in a bounce house - not to mention walking- putting on their clothes by themselves, feeding themselves, washing themselves and going to school by themselves.
Kendal does have a school that she goes to for kids with special needs. On Sunday, the family likes to be together and go to church together. Finding a church was a daunting experience the Duarts.
The Duart family at
church on Easter
 Linda recalls a few instances with Kendal at church, “Kendal was unable to sit through a church service and behave. One time she tossed her shoe and hit someone- she giggle at sounds she found amusing like when someone went in and out the door or even if someone coughed. One time she got annoyed and just blurted out “knock it off” during the sermon.” 
Even when the family found a church they all loved - Faith Presbyterian Church -  there was no place for Kendal to learn and grow with God in fellowship. Linda asked the church if she could start a special needs Sunday school class. They said yes, and she started God’s Special Friends in 2008. Her daughter Kendal was the first student and her son Zach was Linda’s assistant. It seemed to make a great fit for Linda because she was already a substitute teacher in the Pinellas County school system for kids with special needs and she had run a Moms Morning Out program.
The Sunday school class offered at 9:20 a.m. has been good for Kendal, but Linda would love to see it grow. She’s knows there is a need, but people just don’t know the class is available. Another outreach program Linda started for special needs students is a class on Wednesday nights from 6:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. during the Faith Presbyterian’s Pioneer Club. Pioneer club is a learning and service club for kids. Linda’s class involves not only a Bible study lesson, but praise music and even dancing.
Jeff and his daughter Kendal
It’s important to Linda and her husband to give Kendal the joys of life her other kids have.
You will see Linda and her family and other kids in her classes out bowling, cheering at Thrasher’s games, line dancing and having parties for Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

“I think I have learned more from these children than they hey have learned from me. They are such an inspiration and I love them. They are so accepting of everyone-no matter what. They don’t put on any airs or worry about fashion or designer names. They dance and sing like no one is watching! We should be more like them,” says Linda.
And if more of us were like Linda, this world would definitely be a better place for everyone. 
God’s Special Friends will have a glow party at the Harvest Festival at Faith Presbyterian Church, 11501 Walker Avenue in Seminole, on October 23rd from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

If you would like to know more about God’s Special Friends email Linda at jduart1@tampabay.rr.com.

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