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Special Needs Focused Curriculum

April 9, 2010

Question:  “How do I find curriculum to use in church programming that caters to individuals with special needs?”

For adults, go to www.friendship.org, click on “materials”.  You will see a host of curriculum options.  McLean Bible Church’s “Access” Disability  Ministry uses curriculum from Friendship Ministries for their Sunday morning adult education.

An alternative and low cost option for churches with a small number of teens or adults with a disability, is to teach using the Bible Box.  The Bible Box provides an excellent teaching guide along with well crafted three dimensional figures for communicating Bible stories and Biblical concepts.  See  www.bibleboxonline.com.

For children, most existing curriculum is adequate with appropriate modifications and enhancements (see the article Adapting Your Bible Lesson for Children with Special Needs).   Material tailored to children is already broken down into an easily digestible concept or story.  The key to success is presenting the information in a fashion that all children (including children with special needs) can successfully process information.

The more senses a lesson engages, the more likely the information is being received and successfully absorbed by a child.  Children process information in the following ways:

1)      Visual (seeing pictures, visual aids)

2)      Auditory (hearing a story, music)

3)      Kinesthetic or Tactile Learning (touch-n-feel, movement)

When existing curriculum falls short and fails to engage one sense, the children’s ministry team needs to add an activity or aid to the education plans.  For example, if the curriculum offers few pictures to accompany a story, finding another children’s book or resource could provide  the visual images to show as the story is told.  Similarly, teaching volunteers to tell stories by varying voice tone or with two voices through the use of puppets or a simple skit, ensures that a story is appealing to a child’s auditory sense.  And finally, adding appropriate crafts, three dimensional figures representing the story and/or having the students put on costumes and enact the story as a drama, are simple additions and ways to engage kinesthetic learners.  All children will benefit from these enhancements.

Very often a child with special needs may lack the ability to participate in a particular activity.  Rather than abandoning the existing curriculum or suggested lesson plan, knowing a specific child’s challenges and strengths is important.  Modifying a particular activity for a specific child may be necessary.  Pre-cutting or partially assembling a craft enables a child with weak fine motor skills to participate in given a project.  Similarly, planning a single alternate activity may be the only change required to include a child with certain limitations.

Very often the best idea for help with curriculum is to recruit an experienced secular special education teacher or pediatric therapist (speech, occupational or physical) to review the existing materials.  These professionals can offer easy suggestions for modifications and enhancements based the needs of children already participating in church programming.

Amy Fenton Lee

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Note:  Amy’s CPC Breakout “Teaching Strategies…” (Breakout Session #4, 409) gave ideas for teaching tools and lesson enhancers.  To order an audio of this one-hour workshop, go to  http://www.incm.org/images/PDF/SanDiegocpc10orderform.pdf

4 Comments
  1. I would like to recommend a resource that Joni and Friends created last year because it’s packed with ideas for creating and adapting curriculum for children. It is a mini-library of how to direct a meaningful speical needs ministry, and it’s all reproducible. Check out “Special Needs Smart Pages” by Joni and Friends (Gospel Light Publishers, 2009). In the back of the book, there are also ten visual lessons with ideas for how to teach children the basic truths of our faith. I’d like to hear your feedback on this book, since I managed the project and wrote many of the 150 articles. My email is correspondence@joniandfriends.org. May the Lord bless your passion for His precious kids! Pat Verbal

  2. Thanks Pat! Smart Pages is a super resource and we will be highlighting your great work developing Smart Pages in a future post.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Children’s Ministry Blog Patrol (August 2010) | Dad in the Middle
  2. Good Finds! Free Autism Webinar by Friendship Ministries « The Inclusive Church

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