Religious Ed for Special Needs Kids by Kristi McCabe

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Many times special need kids are overlooked when planning lessons for religious education classes.  It is vital that these children feel included in the group and benefit from the class just as much as the other students.  The National Directory for Catechesis states that “persons with disabilities are integral members of the Christian community.”  By being prepared to meet the needs of these students, teachers can insure that they feel included and that they are learning.

  • At the beginning of the year, send an individual religious education plan home with parents and ask them to tell you about the child’s needs.  (There is an excellent example of this at http://www.ncpd.org/ministries-programs/catechesis, under Forms to Aid Successful Inclusion.)  This will help you determine where the child is in his/her development and what he/she can do.
  • Search out catechetical resources for special needs students.  Try Sacraments: Gifts for All www.udayton.edu/~ipi/nice and Catechists for All Children https://catalog.osv.com/Catalog.aspx?SimpleDisplay=true&ProductCode=R27.
  • Remember to include special needs children in your whole group discussions, while providing appropriate activities for them to do individually. Don’t exclude them or assume that they can’t understand the class discussion.  Have activities on hand that are developmentally appropriate and interesting.  It is helpful to have an aide who can work with special needs children individually, then integrate them back into the whole group.
  • The most important thing to remember is to get to know your students, particularly your special needs kids.  Work on creating a bond with them throughout the year, and you will be better prepared to meet their needs.  Creating a working knowledge of a child’s personality and ability can make all the difference in the world when designing effective lesson plans.  If you have a special needs child who loves animals, work that into your lesson.  Know your students.
  • Ask your DRE for books on inclusive education.  Check http://www.stjohnchrysostom.on.ca/resources/religious_education/Special-Needs-Resources.pdf for a comprehensive list of resources for special needs catechesis.

The goal of special needs religious education is to teach students about God’s special love for them and how He is present in their lives.    All children can and should learn about God’s great love for all of us, and that they are all precious in His eyes.  If nothing else, each child should take this important fact home with them after each class.

Source: National Catholic Partnership on Disability http://www.ncpd.org/ministries-programs/catechesis

Copyright 2010 Kristi McCabe

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2 Comments

  1. This is an important topic! Thank you for sharing. I often wonder how left-out parents who have kids with special needs must feel. In particular, my heart goes out to the parents who have a child with autism. Please continue spreading the word that these parents need help at the parish level in Catechesis of their children.

  2. Thank you! This is indeed an area that often gets overlooked. I think many times parents with special needs kids avoid parish religious education programs and other settings because volunteers are not always trained in dealing with children who learn differently. How vital that we reach out to them!

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