For many families, church is a safe space of encouragement, support, and connection. Not only do adults get opportunities to learn about God and connect with others, but children do, too. Like you, we don’t take kids’ ministry lightly around here. We know that the church should be a place where all families feel safe dropping their child off. They should leave feeling confident that their kid will be loved and supported. That includes families of children with special needs. They, too, are looking for a space of encouragement and inclusivity. What better way to include a family than to have a curriculum that is just right for their child?
A Curriculum That’s Flexible
Every child should be able to fully engage in the curriculum at church. To support families of kids with disabilities, we have included helpful resources in your Orange Kids curriculum. We know that as you work to reach all families, there needs to be some special needs customization to your environments, messaging, and activities.
Small Group Curriculum Adaptations to Support Kids with Special Needs
Each Sunday, kids meet with a small group to discuss the Bible story or bottom line. In this time, there are also fun games or activities kids might play that link back to the lesson for engagement. However, some lessons might have barriers for our kids with special needs. To make sure all kids can access the curriculum, we’ve viewed the lessons through the lens of a child with a disability. From there, we made some adaptations.
These adaptations are similar to what a teacher in an inclusion setting might do for his or her students. To support their students, inclusion teachers adapt the material for various abilities. Although these kids will have adapted curriculum in small groups, they would still engage in the lesson at the same time with peers. The adaptations can be used independently or with the support of a volunteer buddy. Here are a few examples:
- Creating choices for kids
- Use of visuals
- Break up multi-step directions
- Bible story review before answering questions
- Alternate version of an activity with a lot of movement
More Resources to Adapt Curriculum for Kids with Special Needs
You might be wondering if there is anything else you can do to make sure these families feel included in the curriculum. In fact, there’s a plethora of helpful ideas, thanks to the incredible ideas of ministry leaders around the country.
In a past episode of the Orange Kids Podcast, Nan Britt, Director of Bethehem Buddies at Bethlehem Church, shares several suggestions for accommodating the individual needs of children. With some time and resources, you can use these suggestions to individualize the church experience for kids with disabilities.
If there are times when the suggested adaptations aren’t the right fit, we want to give you some tools to help you customize the child’s experience even more. The monthly Adapting for Special Needs resource within the curriculum walks you through how to customize each programming segment. Additionally, it comes with supplemental activity ideas for you to design based on the kids in your ministry.
As always, if you have questions or feedback about these curriculum resources, you can reach out to your Orange Specialist. If you would like to discuss a special needs strategy at your church, we’d be happy to support you! Click here to find out who your Orange Specialist is.
As we work to ensure all kids have an equal opportunity to learn about God, we can remember the words of Jesus. He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Leader, the extra time, effort, and resources you spend to create a great experience for children with special needs is divinely powerful. It allows them to experience God’s family and communicates to them that they, too, are made in the image of God.