Group publishing put out a little booklet called "Children's Ministry pocket guide to Special Needs". It's a little, but very informative booklet that highlights quick tips to reach every single child. Whether it be in your Sabbath school class, day care, on the streets or at home.
The book starts off with "General Tips for Teachers" and I think it's IMPERATIVE to share these with you! (However, you should definitely read this entire booklet on your own!)
- Understand that a child with special needs has the same spiritual needs as other children.
- Talk with the parents about what can make the child feel more comfortable. Learn the child's favorite songs, Bible stories, or activities.
- Learn about the child's special needs. Most teachers want to help but just don't know how.
- Use visuals-- simple listening to stories is hard for a child with special needs.
- Experiment to find out what works best for the child.
- Stability and routine are crucial. The simplest change in routine can be traumatic for a child (depending on the disability)
- Remember that children with special needs are more like other children then they are different from them.
- Be aware that most curriculum and activities can be modified or adapted to involve all the children in the classroom routines.
Out of all these tips, there are TWO that stuck out the most to me.
1. "Learn about the child's special needs."
Did you know that "Up to one-third of parents of kids with learning disabilities don't feel prepared to take on the challenge?
- 35 percent have serious concerns about their ability to cope with their children’s learning issues. These parents feel isolated, guilty, stressed and worried about their children’s future.
- 31 percent have conflicting feelings. These parents accept their children’s issues, but aren’t sure how to find or ask for help. They feel stressed, admit to being impatient with their children and are worried about their children’s future.
- 34 percent are optimistic about their ability to cope. These parents feel able to take on the challenges and be good advocates for their children. They don’t feel guilty, are able to manage stress and have ways of dealing with their kids’ learning and attention issues.
This is why creating awareness of what it means to have a learning disability, or special needs is so important. The internet and libraries are filled with information on what exactly it means to "be on the spectrum," or "have an extra chromosome" and so much more. I encourage you to take the time to explore and read.
When a child with special needs or a learning disability enters your classroom, ask their parents "What is he/she good at?" "What is their favorite thing to do?" Focus on their strengths and positives.
2. "Remember that children with special needs are more like other children then they are different from them."
LOVED THIS TIP! Inclusion is imperative in your classrooms and homes. Make everyone feel welcomed, love and cared for. All these kids want is to feel like they're "part of the family!"
At Children's Ministries in the North American Division, we have taken on the task to inform you as much as we can! With articles written by professionals and parents going through the challenges, we will constantly be providing you with resources on how you can improve your church or home's environment to create an INCLUSIVE one.