I recently began reading a book entitled, Let All the Children Come to Me-A Practical Guide to Including Children with Disabilities in Your Church Ministries. I got it here: Amazon
This book provides great insight into the way children think and grow. It is a wonderful tool for both pastors and teachers to use for all students in their children’s department, not only those with special challenges.
At the heart of this book the authors are trying to reform the current way of thinking about children with special needs. Churches should not be creating programs to just baby sit children with special needs while their parents are worshipping. Churches should strive to teach these children and share with these children the love of Christ. A major push is to teach children with special needs inclusively.
Society’s behavior and treatment of people with disabilities has, historically, limited and segregated individuals with an enormous potential for enriching our culture and our society. Fortunately, this is changing, but there is a long way to go. We must adopt attitudes that see a person first without imposing assumptions and faulty beliefs systems on an individual just because we have chosen to label them. we must become more understanding and accepting of people who are different than we are, who look, talk, think, act, and learn differently than us. We must move beyond tolerating diversity and toward appreciating and celebrating diversity with the realization of what such and attitude can contribute to the quality of life for everyone. And, we must develop and implement policies and practices that seek to include everyone without excluding people based on some characteristic that they happen to possess.
At one time, it was widely believed that people with disabilities were not capable of learning or even thinking. Society, in general, did not believe that individuals with physical or cognitive disabilities could hold a job, have families, or live on their own. Certainly they weren’t capable of benefiting by going to church or Bible class. We now see these individuals doing all of these things and more. We have begun to understand that individuals with disabilities are limited only by our attitudes. Their abilities and potential have not changed over the years. It is our attitude and our understanding that has changed. Once we stop letting our attitudes and belief systems limit them, people with disabilities can soar and fulfill their potential–a potential based on pity or charity, but on an understanding of the uniqueness and greatness that God has placed in each of us.
In the book, they discuss a variety of subjects varying from Cerebral Palsy to ADHD. Through it all the book reveals different steps that can be taken to incorporate children with special needs into your weekly Bible Classes. The authors of the book also provide a wonderful Quick Guide in the appendix.
Here’s an Example:
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Characteristics: Children with ADHD have difficulty sitting still, controlling their behavior, and paying attention. They often have difficulty attending to details, organizing tasks or activities, and following instructions.
There are three types of ADHD:
1. Inattentive type. Child can’t stay focused on a task or activity.
2. Hyperactive-impulsive type. Child is very active and often acts without thinking.
3. Combined type. Child is inattentive, impulsive, and too active.
Hyperactivity and impulsivity tend to go together. Children with this type of ADHA fidget and squirm, talking to much, blurt out answers, and have trouble waiting their turn.
It is easy to become frustrated with these children, so it’s important to understand that they are not doing these things intentially. Be aware that the problems these behaviors cause with peers and teachers can make these children feel anxiours, unsure, and even depressed.
Strategies: Because these children have difficulty organizing their world mentally, it is important to provice an environment that is uncluttered, orderly and predictable. Post rules, schedules, and assignments in the room. Establish clear routines; when things are going to change, let them know.
Provide appropriate ways to channel the child’s physical activity. Allowing the child to stand rather than sit to complete an activity can give the child just enough movement to be successful. Whenever possible, integrate physically active and multi-sensory learning experiences into your lessons. Provide some kind of fidget toy (such as a squishy ball) for time when the child has to listen.
Give instructions visually as well as verbally. Step-by-Step written instructions can help the child get back on task after being distracted.
Distractable children benefit from having an uncluttered place to work away from the stimulation of the classroom. A computer can be another helpful tool to assist these children in focusing.
Most important, remember tat these children get very frustrated and are often rejected. Be intentional about establishing positive, loving relationships.
According to a recent survey, 14-15% of the population has some sort of special need. Look around there are probably some in your own church. What we as church leaders and teachers have to remember is that ministering is all about people; it is all about sharing the gospel and love of Christ irregardless of an individual’s special challenges.