Autism, Life Threatening Food Allergies and Primary

photo provided by author

photo provided by author

Today’s guest author is DeeDee, a wife and mother of two who loves the temple and loves to be outdoors enjoying nature with her family. See her 3 specific suggestions below about caring for her children in Primary. 

My beautiful son is four years old. He was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age 3. My amazing eight-year-old daughter has life threatening (anaphylactic) allergies. Both of these conditions shape our children’s experience in Primary.

What is it like to have a child with autism at church? For me it is wonderfully challenging, but I recognize it’s an opportunity for growth and development, for both me and for my child. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a variable diagnosis. That means each child with ASD has unique strengths and challenges. Before my son was diagnosed he was struggling in nursery. A sentence kept going through my mind at that time, “The one matters.” I know that every child matters to the Lord and belongs in Primary, at church and in other church activities. Figuring out how to make that happen is the challenge.

What is it like having a child with life-threatening anaphylactic allergies at church? Life-threatening allergies are about safety. I want my daughter to be safe at church, in Primary and at church activities. It is scary for me to know that if my child eats a certain food it can result in a life-threatening allergic reaction. This makes church different for me than it was before I had a child with severe food allergies. My husband and I are diligent about constantly checking to see if food is involved at church. Sometimes snacks are given in class or as a reward for performances (like Primary programs). Other times food is used to make crafts, provide service or celebrate holidays. We have strict rules for our daughter about food & washing hands. She is very careful about what she touches and eats at church. My guard is always up to some degree at church because I want her to be safe and have a good experience.

What has helped our family:

1. We take responsibility for our children. My husband and I have learned that it is our responsibility to ensure our children are set up for success in Primary. Simply dropping them off doesn’t work. Our experience has been that things go best when we communicate our children’s unique needs with ward and Primary leadership so we can partner with them in helping our children do well in Primary. My 4-year-old son with autism doesn’t communicate verbally like many children his age. When he was diagnosed I notified our Primary presidency and spoke with his nursery leader about his unique challenges. His wonderful nursery leader did well with him, keeping the classroom calm and encouraging open play that doesn’t require 2-way verbal communication. She speaks to him as she does other children but also gives him gentle nudges to help him as needed. I also shared with her behavioral signs that may suggest he is having a difficult time, when it may be best to include me or my husband. Similarly, my daughter can’t eat nuts. Her life threatening allergic reactions can result in death or serious injury. My husband and I take responsibility for her condition by sharing applicable medical information with Primary leaders and our plan to help her if she has a reaction in Primary. We keep emergency medication near her at all times and ask to approve any food offered her in Primary. We hope that Primary leaders and teachers appreciate the steps we take to educate and include them so they aren’t left to interpret things on their own.

2. Have realistic expectations. We attempt to maintain realistic expectations at church. Church leaders, Primary leaders and teachers are imperfect people, volunteers at best. They make mistakes and can misinterpret things like we all do. A Primary leader may misinterpret my son’s behavior. A teacher may bring a snack my daughter is allergic to and forget to check with us first. These things can happen, and it helps to remind us to keep working with ward and Primary leaders.

3. Listen to the Spirit. Numerous times at church my husband or I have felt prompted to check on one of our children in Primary, sometimes urgently. We recognize these as promptings from Holy Ghost and are very grateful for them.



For related posts, see Special Needs page and

Helping children accept others with special needs

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August Sharing Time or family night lesson: “My Body Is a Temple of God”

word of wisdom


Our #1 All-Time Favorite blog post with the most visits from the beginning is this one:

“Word of Wisdom – sharing time lesson and family night idea” with printable visuals to make a sorting game.

Also consider working in this concept: “But how can it be so bad if Aunt Susie does it?”

Check out these wonderful resources about modesty from the Friend magazine, including this maze activity about our bodies as temples.


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Bridging Home and Church: a quick note from the teacher

Today’s guest author is Valerie, wife, mother of 7, grandmother of 13, who loves to cook, quilt, read, serve in the temple, and teach Primary!

Whether you communicate with the parents each week or just occasionally, it helps the parents reinforce the child’s learning. Here’s how Valerie does it:

Every Sunday afternoon/evening I send a group e-mail to the parents of the kids in the class.  (I know this is easy for me since I have no children at home making demands on my time!) I tell them what we talked about, maybe mention it would be a good subject for family home evening,  maybe explain the papers they brought home, tell them who said prayers and if they participated in any way in Sharing Time.  I always tell them how much my co-teacher and I love them, how reverent they are in sharing time (which is true–I think they are the most reverent class!), and if anyone said anything cute, funny, or  spiritual in class (as long as it doesn’t embarrass the parents).  Anything about individual behavior I talk to the parents separately.  The Primary presidency says that the parents really like the note.

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Overheard in Primary: a lesson that backFIRED! - Jesus Blesses the Nephite Children, by Robert T. Barrett; GAK 322 – Jesus Blesses the Nephite Children, by Robert T. Barrett; GAK 322

Today’s guest author is Valerie, wife, mother of 7, grandmother of 13, who loves to cook, quilt, read, serve in the temple, and teach Primary! 
I teach 4-5 year olds in Primary — they are so cute! I taught a lesson about how Jesus loves each child and wants to bless each of us, His children. I told them the story from 3 Nephi 17 about Jesus blessing the Nephite children. My Primary kids said it did NOT sound like a good thing to be surrounded by angels and fire and they DID NOT want that to happen to them!  So funny! I told them it was a special fire that didn’t burn them and the angels were friendly but they still weren’t buying it!
Have any of your Primary children had the same reaction? Tell us how you handled it in the comments below!

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Summer special days – Pioneer Day, President Monson’s birthday, and Primary’s birthday!

Painting of the first Primary from

Painting of the first Primary from

Summer in the northern hemisphere brings Pioneer Day on July 24, President Monson’s birthday on August 21, 1927, and Primary’s birthday on August 25, 1878 (see History of Primary at

To celebrate Pioneer Day, or illustrate any lesson about faith or courage, try this lesson: Simple Pioneer Trek for children. This is one of the favorite lessons of all time, and will stay with your children for a lifetime — guaranteed.

To celebrate President Monson’s birthday or Primary’s birthday, try this lesson: August: Celebrate birthdays of Primary, Pres. Monson. What do you think President Monson would like for his birthday? I’ll bet his favorite present would be if you served someone else.

Enjoy these special days with your Primary children!


“Simple Pioneer Trek for Children” appeared in the book Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids, the book that grew from this blog! Read about it hereSundayLessons_Front_RGB


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The Temple Is a House of God

Aba, Nigeria Temple -

Aba, Nigeria Temple –

I love this wonderful advice from the Sharing Time manual in July as you teach children about temples:

“Love those you teach: As you teach about eternal families, be sensitive to children who do not have both a mother and a father in their home. Also be sensitive to children who have parents or siblings who are less active or who are not members of the Church. Encourage all the children to live worthily and prepare so they can have eternal families of their own someday. (See TNGC, 31–32.)”

Here are some ideas and resources for teaching about various aspects of temples:

  1. About the purpose of temples, with a video which includes pictures of the inside of the temple: Primary Children Looking Toward the Temple
  2. About eternal families: Sharing Time ideas on “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”
  3. About staying worthy and preparing to enter the temple: But how can it be so bad if Aunt Susie does it?”
  4. About pictures of the temple in the home: “Let’s go get one right now!”


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Safe and Loved in Primary

Coloring page from, artist is Cora Lu, age 7

Coloring page from, artist is Cora Lu, age 7

Although it has been decades since Emma Lu was in Primary, her story illustrates how Primary can influence a child for eternity. Today’s guest author Emma Lu is a wife, mother of seven, and grandmother. She is an author and lecturer, and she enjoys writing histories and life events.

As a young child, I hurried along the cool, dry sidewalk toward the church-house. I had an appointment to keep. I did not want to be late.

When I arrived at the chapel, I joined my friends on the church bench, where my feet barely touched the floor. As I sat there, listening to soft music on the piano, I knew I was in the right place at the right time. My home seemed so unhappy and messed up. Often times my mother and dad didn’t speak to each other. It was a cold war. My sister and I lived in fear, because of my dad’s occasional demons of alcoholism. But at Primary I felt happy, safe, and loved. Primary made all the difference.

Just like today, we began with an opening prayer followed by singing time. The chorister was a jolly woman whose well-groomed hands led us in the fun and sacred Primary songs. Often she told us we were bearing our testimonies in song. I felt a warm, joyous feeling and with gusto raised my singing voice. She encouraged my love and talent for music.

Our classrom teacher gave each child personal love. As she shook my hand, she cupped her hands around mine and gave me a pat on the back. I remember the twinkle in her eyes as she told wonderful stories of Jesus and led us in rousing classroom discussions. For me, one benfit of being in her class was to open a need for Christ and his teachings. My testimony blossomed in Primary.

I saw my teacher often in our neighborhood, and her eyes always had the same twinkle sending love. To me she appeard as if she were a heavenly angel. I felt she needed me and I needed her.

It has been some time since I attended Primary as a child, but guess what? I still love Primary. Today when I hear the beautiful children’s songs my mind and feelings wander back to our choister and teacher extending love to children. They both were on an errand for Christ. He said, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16).

I love Primary. It was my salvation, my place of learning, my place of peace.

-Emma Lu

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June/July Sharing Time or family night lesson: Game about the First 4 Principles of the Gospel


(Download the one-page lesson plan here: First Four Principles lesson outline.)

Four weeks in June, four First Principles and Ordinances of the gospel! Teach one per week – Check. Then, you can do this review game or quiz! Luckily for you, there are five Sundays in July but only four lessons in the Sharing Time manual. So you can spend the first Sunday in July reviewing what the children learned in June.

Start by having the children recite or sing the 4th Article of Faith (Children’s Songbook, 124) so they can name those first four principles and ordinances:

  1. Faith
  2. Repentance
  3. Baptism
  4. Gift of the Holy Ghost

Then try this review game. Prepare word strips with the following statements. Feel free to substitute other statements from the lessons taught earlier about the first principles of the gospel.

Divide the children into four groups (perhaps by class) and give one person in each group a sign with one of the first four principles listed above. Explain, “I’m going to read some situations, and you tell me which one applies to which of the first four principles of the gospel. If it’s your group, the whole group stands up! For example, if I tell a story about someone who has faith, the faith group stands up. Some situations might apply to more than one of the first principles, so both groups stand up. Ready? Let’s go!”

Review Game: (answers below)

  1. Jonah said he wouldn’t preach in Nineveh. But after he was swallowed by the whale, he changed his mind and went to Nineveh. (Jonah 1–3)
  2. Jesus set the example for us in the River Jordan. (Matthew 3:13-17)
  3. Alma did this when he left King Noah’s court. (Mosiah 17:2–418:1–17)
  4. Alma compared this principle to a seed. (Alma 32:28 – 30)
  5. This principle has to do with the third member of the Godhead. (Article of Faith 1)
  6. Children younger than eight years old have to wait for this principle. (Moroni 8:10 – 11)
  7. The brother of Jared had so much of this that he saw Jesus Christ. (Ether 3:6, 9-10)
  8. The Anti-Nephi-Lehies did this when they buried their swords. (Alma 23:4–1824:6–19)
  9. This principle comes last because you need the other three first. (Article of Faith 4)
  10. Enos prayed all night to receive this. (see Enos 1:1–4)


  1. Jonah (Repentance — perhaps also Faith)
  2. Jesus in the River Jordan (Baptism)
  3. Alma after King Noah (Repentance AND Baptism)
  4. Alma compares this to a seed (Faith)
  5. Third member of the Godhead (as needed, explain Godhead and who the other two members are). (Holy Ghost)
  6. Age 8 (Baptism AND Gift of the Holy Ghost)
  7. The brother of Jared (Faith)
  8. The Anti-Nephi-Lehies buried their swords (Repentance — perhaps also Faith)
  9. This principle comes last because you need the other three first (Gift of the Holy Ghost)
  10. Enos prayed all night to receive this. (Repentance)

Have extra time?  Additional lesson ideas:

  • Show pictures that illustrate each of the statements. AND/OR
  • Briefly review each story. AND/OR
  • Ask followup and application questions, such as “Why did Alma compare faith to a seed? What can we do to help our ‘faith plant’ grow in our hearts?” AND/OR
  • For Senior Primary, give the scripture clue instead of reading the statement.

See other 5th Sunday lesson ideas here:

5th Sunday: Restoration of Priesthood AND Relief Society

5th Sunday Sharing Time Ideas



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Electronic scriptures in Primary?

The end goal is for children to learn to love the scriptures and hear God’s voice in His holy word. But how best to accomplish that goal? Specifically, should scriptures on electronic devices be allowed in Primary? You and the Lord will figure out the right answer for your Primary, and that answer may change over time. But here are a few considerations, and a list of pros and cons. Thanks to guests Stacy and Jennifer R. who added their thoughts!


  • Using phones to access scriptures should never be a means of separating those families with more money from those with less, or making any child feel uncomfortable if they don’t have a phone.
  • Stacy: “Whichever method you choose, give kids plenty of wait time for them to find the reference. It is very frustrating to still be looking for a scripture when someone is already reading it. When this happens a few times, kids lose interest in even trying to look up the reference.”


  • What better time to learn to use the Church’s extensive online materials and to learn appropriate etiquette regarding phone use than in Primary? Jennifer R.: “The Church has been asking all members to move toward online class manuals for years, in addition to the amount of resources being put into apps and web materials. Two weeks ago I showed both Junior and Senior Primary how to access the music app (the icon is green with a gold note) and make a playlist of this year’s Primary songs. (CDs are so ‘old school!’ They want mp3’s now!) Some may say the kids could end up just playing games on their phones. That could be true in some cases, just as some adults do in class. But the adults were never taught as children how to self-govern with smart phones. Perhaps we have a golden opportunity to teach the next generation of leaders some e-manners. Our Primary presidency does a good job of being in different parts of the room. They can see who isn’t looking up scriptures and then gently redirect the child. Phones get put under chairs if an activity or song requires action.”
  • Navigating in the scriptures can be easier with technology. This is especially helpful as children are beginning their exposure to the scriptures. For example, children need not know what book of scriptures contains Moses 1:39 in order to locate this scripture: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (from the Pearl of Great Price, not the Old Testament with the rest of Moses’ story, naturally).
  • Stacy adds: “For new or struggling readers there is the option of text to speech, which aids in comprehension. You can have one word read or a whole verse or chapter.”


  • I’d hate to think we’re raising a whole generation that can’t study the scriptures if the power is out. Or what if they’re called on a mission to a remote region where technology is scarce and electricity is precious and expensive — will their scripture study skills grind to a halt?
  • Research is mixed about how electronics affect understanding. For example, this Scientific American article states, “Whether they realize it or not, many people approach computers and tablets with a state of mind less conducive to learning than the one they bring to paper.” An article in is titled “Why the Smart Reading Device of the Future May Be … Paper.” It states “in a world of screen ubiquity, many people still prefer to do their serious reading on paper. When I need to read deeply—when I want to lose myself in a story or an intellectual journey, when focus and comprehension are paramount—I still turn to paper.” This absolutely applies to scripture study: focus and comprehension ARE paramount.
  • Stacy: “If using hard copies I always write the reference. And give tips, like this: Alma is in the Book of Mormon, about in the middle of the book, maybe even a page number.”

Stacy adds: We need not suppose that one way is better than another when we are working with children. Our way may not be better for them.

With all this in mind, here’s my personal thoughts. Ideally, I hope children learn to read the scriptures in both formats over time, and make intelligent choices about which format works best for them in what circumstances. Perhaps Primary leaders might have some weeks using only paper scriptures (borrowing copies from the library) and other weeks where either paper or electronics are allowed.

I’m sure the Lord will guide you as you seek to immerse His beloved children in His word in the scriptures.


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June Sharing Time or family night: The most overlooked of the First 4 Principles

from backyardbaseball2003ard

from backyardbaseball2003ard

The June 2016 Sharing Time theme is “The First Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel Make It Possible for Me to Live with God Again.” Start by having the children recite or sing the 4th Article of Faith so they can name those first four principles and ordinances:

  1. Faith
  2. Repentance
  3. Baptism
  4. Holy Ghost

Of these, which do you think is most overlooked when we teach children? My vote is for Repentance. We teach children to have faith, and we talk a lot about baptism, confirmation, and listening to the Spirit. But we seldom teach kids about how to repent, or teach them that this is a positive principle of self-improvement, not self-scolding, because Jesus already paid for our sins when we repent. Repentance is the Atonement of Jesus Christ in action, giving us a fresh start anytime we want it.

We can teach scripture stories about great men who repented, such as:

  1. Enos who pleaded with God all night for forgiveness (see Enos 1:1–4),
  2. Alma leaving King Noah’s court and becoming a prophet (Mosiah 17:2–4; 18:1–17);
  3. Jonah (Jonah 1–3); the
  4. Anti-Nephi-Lehies burying their swords (Alma 23:4–18; 24:6–19).

But we can also make this principle of repentance relevant to children’s everyday lives and teach them how to repent like those scriptural heroes. They may need a bit of guidance in connecting Jonah’s repentance to their need to repent after breaking a rule, for example.

Here’s a lesson about how to incorporate repentance into a child’s daily personal prayer, along with a coloring activity: Daily repentance in daily prayers

Also see this story about repentance that children can relate to: Mailbox Mischief: repentance and atonement for Sharing Time or families by Jackie.


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