Activity Sheets for Kids with Special Needs
Learning pages may provide an alternate activity for a student who is otherwise struggling in a typical ministry setting. And activity sheets can also reinforce a Bible lesson for higher functioning older kids and teens participating in a special needs ministry environment. In order for the student to be successful, it is important that the activity sheet have a logical starting place and ending place, as well as achievable exercises. Generally speaking, providing a blank sheet of paper and crayons is not ideal for the student for special needs – and for several reasons:
1) A more labored effort to manipulate crayons is common among the kids with disabilities. If and when activities are provided that require coloring, offer tri-write crayons or dot-markers to increase the likelihood of success. For learning pages that require handwriting, provide jumbo triangle coloring pencils.
2) A blank sheet of paper without an achievable activity may be a road map to nowhere for the child who requires specific instruction. Concrete learners may better participate when an activity sheet offers short, doable exercises preprinted on the page. The following exercises are good choices so long as they are short and easy:
- Dot-to-Dot exercise (outline a Bible story character with numbered dots)
- Fill-in-the-Blank (Bible verse or statements about the Bible story)
- Maze (path for David to find the sheep, wise men to find Jesus)
- Matching game with simple graphics from the Bible story
- Word search
3) For many kids with special needs, it is important to be able to work on an activity that provides a sense of completion or being finished. In the above activity sheet example we show three separate sections. This allows a child to experience a feeling of completion and success three times. It also provides logical breaks if a child only has a few minutes to work on their activity sheet. It is not uncommon for a student with a neurological disability to struggle if they are pulled away from a task or exercise before achieving completion. This way, if a child needs to stop before finishing their entire worksheet, they have options for break points.
Note: This example page is “rough” (created on the fly by yours truly). Ideally a worksheet would have at least one activity with a simple graphic related to the Bible story. **UPDATE** Yes, I know the example picture shown above wouldn’t work with a struggling reader. This was just the best example I had on hand. And better examples with activities utilizing graphics are all copyrighted, as they should be. (Sorry folks..I know I upset a reader or two who just saw the picture, thought the activity sheet wouldn’t work for their son or daughter… and probably didn’t read the entire post. Keep in mind that not every suggestion on this blog is intended to work for every child.) Ideally, the activities on a learning page would offer more intuitive exercises with graphics – e.g. maze, matching game, or connect the dots.
I owe great thanks to Kelly Holland for the idea of providing activity sheets to preteens and teens with special needs. Kelly is the Director for Access, the Special Needs Ministry of Grace Fellowship Church in Johnson City, Tennessee. Each week the Access team creates a simple activity sheet that relates to the day’s Bible lesson. Participants with special needs are provided the learning page and can take it as they go to their respective typical ministry settings (large group, small group, etc). The kids are free to work on their activity sheet as they desire. Oftentimes a student with special needs will have a peer assigned to help them complete their page. This tool keeps preteens and teens with special needs engaged and learning, when they might otherwise become bored even disruptive. ~ Amy Fenton Lee
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