Question : “How often should the church offer training for volunteers and special needs buddies”
Providing training to special needs focused volunteers protects the well being of all participants as well as the church and the volunteers themselves from potential litigation. Good policies and procedures, including training, provide “mitigating factors” that guard the ministry from both real and perceived safety breaches.
Some elements of special needs training should be incorporated into the training for all children’a ministry volunteers. Most parents of children with mild spectrum disorders (and many other special needs) want their child to remain in typical classrooms. Often parents do not reveal their child’s diagnosis in fear they will be removed from the typical setting. And for children with many learning disabilities or high functioning neurological disorders, the typical classroom is most appropriate. Even if those children require a buddy for successful inclusion, every teacher in the room needs a familiarity with 1) policies & procedures related to special needs –and- 2) teaching techniques and behavior management strategies effective with children with special needs.
Similarly, it is important that all special needs focused buddies and designated classroom teachers be required to receive training on the general children’s ministry policies & procedures. It becomes a liability issue if special needs volunteers are unfamiliar with the culture and safety practices inside the children’s ministry.
The frequency of training is up to each congregation. Many churches offer a general training session either once a quarter or twice a year. For those volunteers who want to start serving before a training session is offered, a pre-recorded video of a prior training session is provided. Special needs focused training may be given in a large group, one-on-one, or both. Very often the best training for special needs involves a scheduled introduction meeting between a specific child, their parents, and the teacher(s) or prospective buddy team.
– Amy Fenton Lee
Note: Amy’s CPC Breakout “Building the Team” (Breakout Session #1, 109) addressed special needs volunteer best practices. To order an audio of this one-hour workshop, go to http://www.incm.org/images/PDF/SanDiegocpc10orderform.pdf