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5 Tips for Helping a Child with Special Needs in Summer Programming

May 21, 2012

Today’s guest post comes from Meredith Teasley who wears a whole bunch of hats at Lifeway, including planning and leading Lifeway’s CentriKid camps.  Meredith has a tremendous heart for both children and the leaders who serve them.  I have appreciated Meredith’s friendship and her enthusiastic support for helping churches include kids with special needs.  Meredith’s post provides universal guidance helpful to every kidmin team! ~ Amy

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I have a camp background and have enjoyed the opportunity to help kids with special needs connect even at camp! Many parents are frightened to send kids with special needs to camp, and many kids ministry leaders are just as scared! The good news is that just about any kid can have a great experience at camp, with some guidance and planning. Check out these 5 tips for helping that child connect in their new environment:

  1. Know the issue. At CentriKid Camps, we take time to learn exactly what issue the child may be dealing with. A kid whose parents have recently divorced has a much different need than one who is dealing with a physical disability. Know the need you are trying to meet.
  2. Involve the kid. Give the child the opportunity to engage with leaders and other kids. As much as possible, build a relationship with the child. Anytime a kid is dealing with a special need, an extra “buddy” or one-on-one helper can really make a difference!
  3. Give the child choices. ASK: Do you want to play the game with the group, or sit on the grass and watch? This gives much better boundaries than simply asking if they want to play. Give the child two options whenever possible.
  4. Encourage the leader. We all know it can be tough to lead a child dealing with a  special need. Remind the children’s ministry leader why they are helping out. Pray with them. Listen to the leader as they share how the experience went.
  5. Keep your expectations in check. Remind yourself and other leaders helping the child that it won’t be perfect every time. Any new situation always requires some adjusting and help along the way.

Remember your purpose in helping the child connect. It won’t always go exactly like you planned, but you’ve given this kid a great opportunity to be a part of something incredibility fun and different! Enjoy the experience! ~ Meredith Teasley

Meredith Teasley is a former #kidmin and currently servers a Kids Camp Specialist with LifeWay Christian Resources. She has included kids with special needs at camp since 2002. Meredith offers #kidmin helps and leadership tips on her blog, www.meredithteasley.com.

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