Teaching children with special needs can be delightful, frustrating and overwhelming. Each child is a child of God and we have a responsibility to include them and teach them the gospel to the best of our ability.
1. Primary should help build the foundation of a child’s testimony. It needs to be a positive experience.
2. Behavior change is possible, especially if we provide support.
3. Have expectations, don’t be intimidated by children with special needs. You are entitled to revelation and you are capable of teaching them.
1. Children with disabilities often respond better to a visual than to verbal instructions. Visuals could include:
a. Activity Schedules — Children are more comfortable and better behaved if they know what the schedule is. An activity schedule is simply an activity paired with a picture. The schedule can be cut into individual strips backed with magnets (allowing leaders to change the sequence of activities). The schedule can be posted on a blackboard or wall so the child can see what will happen and when they will see their parents again. (See the links below for examples.)
b. Social Stories – Social stories are stories written for a child facing a challenging situation. They usually pair words with pictures. Common problems: Reverence, Asking for a break, Why I come to primary, Transitions and having a new teacher and/or substitute.
Example of a Social Story I wrote for a child having difficulty transitioning into Sunbeams. Social Story PDF
A post about Social Stories HERE.
c. Small Picture Cards with a Command (commonly known as PECS: The Picture Exchange Communication System). Some children have difficulty processing verbal commands, by showing the child a card with a direction (sit down for example) rather than saying the direction the child is better able to process and obey it. Suggestions for the cards: sit, quiet, hands down, listen, etc.
2. Have co-teachers in a classroom with a child with disabilities or call a one-to-one aide for that child. Call more than one who can switch off different weeks if the child is challenging. Ensure that the child is being taught and has the opportunity to feel the spirit.
Every Sunday we have an opportunity to include children with disabilities, to help them feel the spirit and teach them the gospel. We can receive tremendous blessings when we teach children with special needs and we can more effectively teach them when we rely on the Spirit. Every child deserves the opportunity to learn the gospel in an uplifting and positive environment.
Example of Class Schedule PDF (This is designed to be cut into strips, laminated and attached to the wall or blackboard)
Example of Primary Schedule PDF (This is designed to be cut into strips, laminated and attached to the wall or blackboard)
(All of the visuals were created using Mayer Johnson’s Boardmaker software.)