Five Ways to Make ANY Curriculum More Inclusive
By: Amy Fenton Lee
Including a child with special needs can present challenges inside a church’s programming. However, by planning ahead and incorporating easy changes into the existing curriculum’s lesson plan, the classroom setting can better include the child with cognitive or physical challenges.
The key to making effective adaptations is in understanding the participating students’ strengths and weaknesses. Knowing the children’s ability levels is the starting point for making any curriculum changes.
1. Classroom Size & Teacher Ratio: Adapt size of group, project or activity.
In cases where a child with special needs necessitates more dedicated attention, providing a teen or adult buddy may solve any problems. During elementary school and beyond, oftentimes a mature child can be tagged to provide peer assistance. Many typical children have an uncanny ability to help a peer with special needs, both in completing tasks and regulating behavior.
Along the same lines, children with neurological disorders struggle when any hint of chaos emerges in an environment. A calm and orderly classroom helps such a child with his own self-regulation. Too many things going on may produce sensory overload, and may interfere with the child’s ability to learn and remain engaged. Controlling noise and activity level is easier in a smaller group than in a room with many children.
2. Time: Adjust time allotted for activity or task.
While planning ample activities is important, it should be noted that children should not feel rushed. Hurrying children through an activity may frustrate a child who is remaining engaged but taking longer to complete an activity, possibly due to their limitations. For classroom teachers, patience is as important as the planning!
3. Vary Input & Output: Deliver the material to all learning styles: 1) auditory, 2) visual and 3) kinesthetic.
Recognize that some children with special needs may require using sign language, picture symbols and even eye gazes as a part of their communication and feedback. Some churches take a given Bible story and then provide a worksheet of picture symbols for a child to follow as the story is told. Similarly, allowing a child to answer questions and participate by selecting and presenting pictures gives him additional methods for interactive participation.
4. Degree of Difficulty: Simplify instructions, steps or change rules when necessary.
For typical environments including one or two children with special needs, coaching the volunteer teachers how to spot and make potential curriculum adjustments is important. For many activities the same materials can be used, so long as the activity’s objective or required participation is altered to accommodate a specific child’s ability level. In some cases, pre-cutting or partially assembling a craft project may be the only adjustment necessary!
5. Substitute & Enhance: Provide different or additional material to meet the child’s need.
Instead, invite a special education teacher or pediatric therapist (occupational, physical or speech) to take a quick glance at the church curriculum. Very often, they can identify activities in need of modification, substitution and enhancement. And, they can offer incredibly simple suggestions that make the existing material come alive and relate to children with special needs or differing learning styles.
Amy Fenton Lee is passionate about helping churches successfully include children with special needs. This article is courtesy of www.Ministry-To-Children.com, a resource started by Tony Kummer to solve children's ministry problems.