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Hearing the silent speak - an exploration into the silent spirituality of severely disabled children

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posted on 2023-08-30, 18:17 authored by Susan E. Price
I argue that the spirituality of severely disabled children is silent and silenced. My research explores this under-researched area to investigate how these children express their spirituality and how that might be recognised and understood by others, especially within a healthcare context. This is a theological qualitative research project. My literature review explored how ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality’ are understood within the societal and healthcare contexts that surround the children, their families and staff. I reflected on the Christian Doctrine of imago Dei, in the light of Children’s Spirituality and Disability Theology. I explored a relational understanding of this doctrine and proposed that the study cohort could reflect imago Dei through their spirituality expressed in their relationships. My over-arching methodology of attention and contemplation was applied to the methods used for the fieldwork. This involved spending time with six severely disabled children in their own homes. The data from these visits was analysed using adapted forms of Content and Thematic Analysis. The severely disabled children in the study were shouting out their spirituality, living a difficult life ordinarily, in meaningful relationships with themselves, others and God, living in the present moment. Attention and contemplation were necessary to hear and see their embodied, relational spirituality. I concluded that these children’s embodied spirituality is best described through an understanding of the relationality of imago Dei, seen in their relationships with themselves and others and God. Their relationships were expressed and formed through their languages of play and silence. Each child in the research had their own personal spiritual signature. The findings can be used as theological offerings to support healthcare practice in a deeper understanding of person-centred care, recognising the prophetic nature of the children and healthcare and through a recognition of hospitality as spiritual care.



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