I’m a fan of whatever works. If one kid loves the pace and community of a tailored “self-contained” special needs setting, then great. If another child thrives among their typical peers, then even better. Today’s post is aimed to facilitate a great inclusion experience for students utilizing a buddy. Providing a buddy clipboard enables three-way communication between check-in volunteers, ministry leadership, and the buddy (who may be a responsible teenager). And the buddy clipboard also arms the the student’s helper to better engage the participant with special needs. Use this tool for weekend programming or the VBS summer experience.
Supplies needed (one for each student-buddy pair):
|“Will Return” Sign with Clock|
|Single Pocket Colored Sheet Protectors|
|Smiley Face Stickers|
|Staff/Buddy Communication Template (Provided Here) Template 1|
|Weekly Announcement Template (Provided Here) Template 2|
|Student Schedule Template 3|
|Independent Activity Sheets See example in this link|
Virtually every supply shown here was purchased at Office Depot.
Step 1: Affix multi-function pen to the clipboard with the Velcro® One Wrap® and a lanyard. This particular pen also functions as a pencil and offers more than one ink color.
Step 2: Cut the “Will Return” part off the movable clock sign or cover the words with painter’s tape. Affix clock sign on back of clipboard. Instruct buddies to move clock hands to note the time of the next transition. Reviewing the clock sign and comparing it to the clock on the wall may prepare students for upcoming changes.
Step 3: Prepare a communication sheet and place on front of clipboard. Notes in red may actually be handwritten communications between the volunteers at check-in, the buddy, and ministry leadership. These important notes should be kept on file and referred to when identifying trends so to update accommodation plans as students’ needs change.
Step 4: Provide a weekly communication piece that provides relevant information about the day’s ministry environment, enabling the buddy to better meet the needs of the student. Be sure to also use this information sheet to build community among the volunteers.
Step 5: Create a customized schedule for each participant. Provide stickers for participant to affix upon completion and to signal an upcoming transition. For a particular student who struggles with undesirable communication, buddies may offer the sticker after an activity is completed without problematic behaviors (e.g. pushing, hitting, running off). You may also use the schedule itself as a positive reinforcer. For example, playground time could be a reward if a student made good communication choices during all the preceding activities. You may also want to add icons to the visual schedule as we have done here and here.
Step 6: Offer a learning page for students to complete during times they might otherwise become bored or disengaged (e.g. during small group). If a buddy notices their participant becoming restless, instruct them to pull out the activity sheet. Be sure the provided learning exercise matches the ability of the student. Note that the example shown here is great for a reader. A non-reader would benefit from an illustrated and more intuitive exercise. It’s a real bonus if the provided learning page ties to the Bible material presented.
Step 7: Provide a colored sheet protector (shown here) or a colored reading ruler (not shown, see link) to highlight worksheets or reading materials handed out in small group. Oftentimes highlighted words are easier to read than black & white text. You might even go a step further and provide a pre-printed copy of the day’s Scripture and place it inside the colored protector. Encourage buddies to talk about the Bible verse during downtime or offer a fun reward if the student will attempt to memorize the verse.
We’d love to hear from you. What tips and tools do you provide special needs buddies?
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~ Amy Fenton Lee