December 23, 2012

Faith Formation Guidelines for Inclusion of Children with Special Needs

Providing faith formation for special children is an important part of our religious education programs.  Let us take a look at some of the ways these children can be better included.

Many children with mild developmental delays as well as ADD and ADHD can be included in typical classrooms.  Some children who are diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum can also have their needs met in typical classroom. An assistant can be utilized to help keep these children focused, if necessary.  The presence of these children should be seen as a gift to the classroom teacher who will be challenged to modify and adapt lessons so that all of her children learn. Her creativity will emerge as she strives to keep easily distracted children focused and provide a positive atmosphere of acceptance and respect.

Are these students a gift to their classmates as well?  I would answer with a resounding, “Yes!”  Activities will be varied.  Different teaching techniques will keep students interested.  Group work will provide support for students who need it. All will be enriched by the experience as they strive to build community with each other.

Children with severe developmental delays, challenge all of us to find ways of including them in formation and worship.  This is also true of children who have not yet learned to modify their behaviors. For these children, a program that parallels the typical program but is adapted to their special needs, may be appropriate.  It will provide community for them, and give them a chance to participate in formation and worship with the typical children in the program.

A facilitator will be needed to organize such a program, searching for catechists who will work with individual children on a one to one basis, or in a very small group.  “Modify” and “Adapt” will become very important words in her vocabulary!  She will need to familiarize herself with supplemental materials that are designed to reach these children where they are at, presenting the life of Jesus and the fundamentals of faith in a simple and visual manner.  Catechists will have to teach to the heart rather than to the head so that children with severe delays will not be deprived of growing in their relationship with the Father who created them “beautifully and wonderfully made”.  This is no easy task.  This office is here to help in whatever way possible to insure that all children are included in faith formation.

Sacramental materials for children with developmental delays are available at the e store.  Be sure to check them out!

Let us spread the Good News!  All children are welcome in our faith formation programs!

If you have any questions, please contact Mary Anne Russo, Ministry with Persons with Special Needs.