Many students with special needs can participate in the same Bible lessons and activities as every other child in your ministry. Some will need a little extra help or to have an activity adapted slightly to enable them to fully participate. A few will need activities specially designed to accommodate their learning differences.
Recently, I observed a ministry in Atlanta, GA created to enhance Bible learning for children with special needs in their congregation. The resources they have created are great ways to assist some of the children to whom they minister. Best of all, they are relatively easy for you to duplicate for the children in your congregation who may benefit from them.
The first resource is especially helpful for children who struggle with transitions. It is a simple class schedule containing the possible activities that can happen during class time. The student for whom this was designed was allowed to choose the activities and the order in which they were done, but this could easily be adapted to reflect a set list of activities and the order in which they will happen during a specific class period. The velcro makes it easy to move activities around. In this particular example, the student removes the activity once it is completed and Velcro’s it to the back of the schedule sheet.
For students who may struggle with being unable to do what they want before doing something that is required, a series of “first this, then this” cards can ease the stress for both students and teachers. The cards have a variety of options, giving teachers more support in helping some of their students with transitions.
They have also created a variety of Bible story books that serve as a simple Bible lesson. Some of their Bible story books also work as social stories, reinforcing appropriate social interactions. They can also be used to encourage other behaviors and attitudes for kids who may struggle in those areas. Once again, these have images attached to the book with velcro. The student removes all of the images from the book and then places them in the appropriate spots as the story is told. Some students with special needs require frequent repetition of important concepts before they are able to store them in long term memory. Using these small books is a great way to help them review and remember important Bible stories and concepts.
They have also found a way to help some of their students begin to memorize key Bible verses. They use a combination of words and images to help students remember the verses. Once again, the student removes the images that are attached to the card and then reattaches them in the appropriate order. This method is also helpful for students who may be non-verbal – especially if they use augmentative and alternative communication devices.
Another great resource, that will also work great with early readers is a set of “Bible words” cards. These cards have an image of a word commonly used in Bible classes. There is a small piece of velcro for each of the needed letter to complete the word and a set of letters. The teacher can just place the needed letters in front of the student or allow the student to choose from the entire alphabet.
This special ministry at Grace Chapel Church of Christ has lots of other great resources they use to fully engage children with special needs in Bible study. They understand every child deserves a chance to learn as much about God as they possibly can. We will share other ideas in the future, but a very special thanks to Julie K. and her team for sharing these wonderful resources with us.