Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Special Needs Part 3

So once I have a vision? Once I know the needs? or what if I just want to be prepared?

What are common areas that I can invest in and develop to help special needs?

After asking the parents about the child, what strategies work, what goals they have, and what supports are best for their child.

Think about how you can help kids:


Transitions are change, moving from one thing to the next like: 

Examples: starting/stopping the class, singing time to the room for story time, snack time to game time, story time to craft. Transitions are hard for all of us.

Most of us think of change as a bad thing, and that's really what a transition is, moving from one thing to another. So children of ALL ages and stages need support in transitions.   This support is in a schedule (shared orally or posted), warning of a change (one more song before story time), or teaching a routine (clap twice, they clap twice, then you speak), and buddies or helpers can support transitions.

The biggest tip is create a schedule or routine, POST it, and share it with kids. Kids are all better with knowing what's next and with surprises being planned, but not routine.  

Here's a blog post from the Inclusive Church about Strategies to Include Every Child

Creating a transition box

Visual Schedules examples: Part One VBS example
Part Two Pill Container

Sensory Needs

We all need to move, to shake, we all have days were we don't feel just right.  But children especially, are learning how to regulate or cope with all the senses around them. Some respond by being overwhelmed, and over active, others respond with what might look shy or shut down, but some get angry or enraged and others get giddy or depressed.  All kids have sensory needs.. Just think of Christmas's too much for most people!

Simple ideas are awareness of the stimuli and the needs of kids...


  • is it too loud? too small? too big? too warm? too cold? is there a scent? 
  • some kids can't sit on the floor? others are better on the floor. Some need a cushion with texture.  
  • some kids need movement built in. 
Simple responses:
  • fidgets: a stress ball, playdough, sand, rice/beans to dig in, tactile opportunities (flannelgraph?)
  • sit on yoga balls, cushions, define space with small carpets
  • build in movement breaks or movement with songs or finger plays
  • snacks and water if you are together for any length of time, or based on how long since a meal. 
  • weighted objects can calm anyone or a body sock, tunnel, or tent can provide relief. 
You can time movement, calming options, and most people appreciate tactile, visual and auditory options as well. Just recognize which of these areas might be triggers. (think clowns are scary to lots of people, some kids are overwhelmed with competition, some can't cope if they are tired or hungry.)  
Just be aware and a good detective, and you can figure out and prevent many problems, or keep it from reoccurring.  Here's another blog that has several articles that mention it in the church setting!


Learn that you can adapt, change when a new idea comes, and you can reflect and process, but be ready to make adaptations, if something could work better or be improved!  


When in doubt, extra hands and heads, will make any program smoother, as long as each person KNOWS their jobs, and has purpose or a way to support. Even if you have an 'on call' person that leaves if there are enough helpers, this can be the best support for kids. People!

Here's a website with article and book suggestions. 

Of course the best resource is also seeking ideas from therapists, teachers, and those with experience with the disability or concerns you are facing. Pray about it and ask around, the Lord will raise up help. 

Special Needs kids Part Two Definitions and Resources

What is a Special Needs Child?

A teacher/classroom/learning definition would involve ability to learn, but it is centered around a more complex scenario- a disability, an impairment, a delay, environmental experiences, psychiatric, psychological, lack of skills, ...

  • it could be a concern in: intellectual, physical, emotional, social development 
  • it could be a  delay (need more time to learn to talk, think, age is 6 but in function acts 3) , 
  • it could be a processing concern (sensory, oral, mental, physical, verbal, nonverbal).
  • It could be a disability or handicap (vision, hearing, movement)
  • It could be that their brain needs rewiring 
  • It could be high intelligence. or Giftedness
  • It could be behavioral concerns.
  • It could be social concerns.
  • It could be that the child lacks skills or needs help learning how to ___.  
  • It could be all of the above.   It could be a blend. 
But in the world of ministry, I think we look at the WHOLE child and remember that Psalm 139 shows us that God created and formed us each as we are in our mother's wombs. And differences should not bring fear but celebration.  

So if you want to be prepared to whisper the Word to special needs kids... you need to synthesis and analysis what you know, what you need to find out, and then seek out techniques and strategies to meet the needs of every child put before you!

Step One: Ask the family about any diagnoses and strategies that help their child.  Get information, if they have a 'label' look it up.  Talk to a teacher or professional.

Here's a list of what we know as statistics... from the Inclusive Church linked below.

2013 Special Needs Stats from TheInclusiveChurchdotcom

Step Two: Think critically, what simple tweaks might help all the kids, but especially this special, precious child? How can we include and involve this student in a dignified way?

Then brainstorm with others!

You can start by seeing what others do!

Most famous perhaps? Joni (a quadrapalegic) and her friends and resources.  

Children Desiring God has some online lectures from their conferences to help you think about disabilities.

Bethlehem Baptist has a disability ministry program. (super extensive model!) 

A blog that reflects on special needs and the Works of God

The Inclusive Church has some practical ideas and resources for ANYone. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Special Needs Kids Part One

If you want to reach kids, you have to be ready to reach them where they are at.  How do we reach kids with the life giving Word of God if they have special needs?

First I think we need to think about what needs to change (if anything) to meet a 'special needs' child's needs.  I think we need to embrace this as an opportunity to show the love like the Lord Jesus and recognize that ALL people have special needs, some are just more evident than others.

I think that our first change is in ministry mindset.  Are we prepared to serve the EGR (extra grace required) kids first? Are we ready to do that with love, kindness, time, and reflection?  Then we need to see each child as a whole person, and look for how to serve each person fully. This will be thinking about their personality, learning style, life, experience, and then their physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual needs.

But when a child has a set of known or complex needs, that can be daunting, or it can be an opportunity to serve? which way should we approach it?

As an educator, I think we need to remember that what's good for a special needs child is likely good for ALL.  We all need support, clarity, repetition, love, and time to learn and grow.

So how can we think what are simple things I can do to help ALL the children in our ministry/home learn best?  That brings us back to where we all should start- let's get to KNOW our children.

Well- what are our needs? I believe this takes us back to child development. What is normal for each age/stage.  

These two resources do a great job helping you grasp what's 'normal' or average development.

Sunday School Changes Everything by Henrietta C. Mears (Gospel Light Publishing)

A focus on the family resource: Spiritual Growth of Children