Over at http://ministry-to-children.com, Amy Fenton Lee and Jackie Mills-Fernald (of the inclusive church blog) recently posted as guests, and they listed three ways that Sunday Bible lessons can be adapted for special needs children. This is important as we are welcoming in more and more children with special needs at Sojourn. Here is her list, and you link to the entire article here. 1. Classroom Size & Teacher Ratio: Adapt size of group, project or activity
Keeping a child engaged is the key to maintaining his attention and managing his behavior. A disinterested child may be lured back into the group when a teacher can ask them a direct question or assign a specific task. Smaller child-to-teacher ratios provide better opportunities for these necessary one-on-one interactions.
In cases where a child with special needs necessitates more dedicated attention, providing a teen or adult buddy may solve any problems. During elementary school and beyond, oftentimes a mature child can be tagged to provide peer assistance. Many typical children have an uncanny ability to help a peer with special needs, both in completing tasks and regulating behavior.
Along the same lines, children with neurological disorders struggle when any hint of chaos emerges in an environment. A calm and orderly classroom helps such a child with his own self-regulation. Too many things going on may produce sensory overload, and may interfere with the child’s ability to learn and remain engaged. Controlling noise and activity level is easier in a smaller group than in a room with many children.
2. Time: Adjust time allotted for activity or task
Very often too much time is allotted for a project. As soon as a child becomes bored or disinterested, the likelihood of wandering and less desirable behavior increases. When children finish an activity too soon, they may become disengaged and initiate self play. For a child who does not self regulate well and needs structure, constructive self play is a struggle. It is better to over-plan and then discover that the children are enjoying a project and need more time than to provide too few structured activities.
While planning ample activities is important, it should be noted that children should not feel rushed. Hurrying children through an activity may frustrate a child who is remaining engaged but taking longer to complete an activity, possibly due to their limitations. For classroom teachers, patience is as important as the planning!
3. Vary Input & Output: Deliver the material to all learning styles: 1) auditory, 2) visual and 3) kinesthetic.
Even typical children differ in the ways they best receive new information. While one child may better process a lesson by observing visual aids, another child may learn by hearing colorful oral illustrations. Similarly many children process concepts by application. Incorporating actions through crafts, gross-motor movement or participation in a drama creates a greater impact on a kinesthetic learner. Environments and programs that utilize music, puppets, creative movement, visual arts (and the list goes on) are more likely to present information in ways that all children can successfully process.
Recognize that some children with special needs may require using sign language, picture symbols and even eye gazes as a part of their communication and feedback. Some churches take a given Bible story and then provide a worksheet of picture symbols for a child to follow as the story is told. Similarly, allowing a child to answer questions and participate by selecting and presenting pictures gives him additional methods for interactive participation. Picture symbols are available through software programs such as Boardmaker as well as on many free websites.