Reaching and teaching adults with special needs

Shirley Dechaine in the USA uses FreeBibleimages and writes, ‘My listeners are adult special needs students in a Sunday School class. Most of them gave their full attention to the Bible story and the colored images brought it to life for them.’ We are thrilled Shirley is willing to share these great tips on building good relationships and helping adults with developmental difficulties to learn:

1. Enter the classroom early with a happy heart.
2. Be prayerfully and fully prepared.
3. As students enter, distribute hugs freely – being sure each student is warmly welcomed.
4. Touch is generally welcomed but be sensitive to each student’s needs. Some prefer a handshake to a hug.
5. Know that it is impossible for you to fail. Your giving heart has already passed the test.
6. Mistakes are allowed.  Let students know that you, too, make mistakes.
7. Take time to listen to their stories, even if spoken in faltering, slow speech.
8. Be compassionate but not overly-sympathetic.
9. Keep class time fun!
10. Teach only one Bible truth and repeat this truth in a variety of ways (role play, puppets, games, music, crafts, guests).
11. Follow your prepared lesson plan unless classroom dynamics require change.  Be flexible.
12. Keep lessons and crafts simple. Don’t get bogged down in too many details. (They won’t remember them anyway.)
13. Use as many visual images as possible. You have visual learners.
14. Involve students as much as possible.
15. Recognise individual capabilities in students. Make use of their strengths.
16. Use appropriate vocabulary. Use “students” or “friends” instead of “children”.  Such references are offensive to special needs adults.
17. Pray with students during class to meet individual heart needs. Encourage personal prayer.

More about this caring Christian ministry to those with special needs can be found at Open hearts extended.