Category Archives: Special Needs

Pursuing Church School Success: Reaching Students Who Face Other Challenges

In this series, we featured resources and ideas that can increase the learning success of a Church school classroom. In each post, we shared some tips for classroom management and/or ideas for increased student participation. What we have shared is not a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination: there are many more ideas available. It is our hope that what we have encountered and passed on can act as a starting point toward enhancing the learning that takes place in our Church school classroom. This is the final post in the series.

For this final post of the series, we have gathered a handful of resources for challenges that we have not yet addressed, which teachers in this community may be facing regularly in their Sunday Church school classroom. The resources are as varied as the challenges they address. Perhaps you may find it helpful to review all of the resources, in the event that one or more would suddenly become helpful in your classroom.

Here is an overview of the challenges which these resources address. Students with invisible disabilities may have physical pain or mental or emotional instability which affects their learning. Students with Oppositional Defiant Disorder may unintentionally disrupt the classroom as they try to make sense of their world. Students who are constantly wiggling may have a physiological or cognitive reason for doing so; whether or not they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Students who struggle with anxiety may need additional margins or space in which to decompress. Gifted children may react intensely to their world; perhaps even with unpredictable angry outbursts because of the difference of their mental capacity from that of their peers.

Each of these challenges is unique and requires a different approach, so we will share a link or two related to each. It is our hope that one or more of these links will be helpful for your Sunday Church school classroom. If none seem necessary at the moment, hang on to the list; next year could be entirely different in your classroom!

Here are the links that we found related to the above topics. Do you face any of these challenges in your classroom? If so, what has worked for you? What related resources would you recommend to the community? Please share them below!

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Some time ago, we shared the following resources that can be helpful to Sunday Church school teachers who are working with students with invisible disabilities. Here they are again, in case you missed them the first time around:

https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2018/12/07/a-handful-of-resources-to-help-us-better-care-for-children-with-invisible-disabilities/

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Here’s a wish list for churches, written by one person who is experiencing an invisible illness. This list applies to Sunday Church schools, as well. https://morningcoffee.blogspot.com/2011/09/i-found-out-just-now-that-someone-out.html

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“Their disabilities are invisible to our eyes but complicate their every waking minute. As sojourners in a world that seems too bright, too loud, too harsh — too much — they need our love, as an echo of the perfect love they’ll find in Christ.” Read more about the reality of individuals with special needs who sojourn in our midst here: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/not-wired-for-this-world?fbclid=IwAR3o

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Find a helpful definition of Oppositional Defiant Disorder, as well as 9 hands-on steps to work with a student with this disorder, here: https://www.merakilane.com/dealing-with-oppositional-defiant-disorder-18-tips-for-parents-and-teachers/

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What happens if one of our students is unable to “sit still and listen” or doesn’t turn around and look when we’re talking to them? Why is this happening, and what should we do about it? It may be occurring because the student is simply tired of being still during Liturgy, or it could signify more. Learn what different types of movement from your student could indicate, and how you can handle each, here: http://mcnattlearningcenter.com/files/Turning-Point.pdf 

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Teachers of students who may have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder will find helpful suggestions here:

https://incm.org/what-to-do-with-the-movers-and-shakers-in-your-sunday-school-class/

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Find a host of suggested ways to help students who struggle with anxiety, here: https://adayinourshoes.com/anxiety-iep-504-accommodations/

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Gifted people can be very intense. This intensity can affect their relationships, but it is not always a bad thing. Find 11 suggested strategies for embracing the intensity of gifted people here: https://reneeatgreatpeace.com/embracing-gifted-intensity/#_a5y_p=3284209

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The mother of gifted children (who sometimes has angry outbursts) has written this piece to help others understand and learn how to best work with her children: https://www.notsoformulaic.com/angry-gifted-kid/

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Pursuing Church School Success: A Handful of Resources Related to Autism

In this series, we will feature resources and ideas that can increase the learning success of a Church school classroom. In each post, we will share some tips for classroom management and/or ideas for increased student participation. What we share is not a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination: there are many more ideas available. It is our hope that what we proffer can act as a starting point toward enhancing the learning that takes place in our Church school classroom. 

We have gathered a handful of resources related to autism, the brain disorder which affects an individual’s ability to communicate, nurture relationships, and interact with their environment. Although more people have been diagnosed with autism in recent years, it is still unfamiliar to many others. Every person with autism is different, so there is still much to learn, even if we already know or have worked with someone with autism. In order for us to be better prepared to meet the students that may come our way, it is important that we prepare by learning about some of the best ways to welcome and suggestions to try when teaching someone who is autistic.

Summer Kinard is an Orthodox Christian teacher who is well prepared to teach other teachers about autism. She is an autistic mother raising five children on the autism spectrum, so she is familiar with this challenge from the inside. Summer does an excellent job of finding beautiful ways to teach others with autism, and sharing those ideas with other teachers. She offers so many resources at her site, SummerKinard.com. She even has identified patron saints who can be helpful with autism, and you can read about them here: https://summerkinard.com/2018/05/10/patron-saints-of-autism/! Her site is an excellent place to start looking for resources related to autism. (We will share a few of them below, but we recommend that you visit her site for more!

We have found a few other resources as well, and will share them below, in no particular order. These resources are not all Orthodox, but all are helpful, nonetheless.

How about you? What is your experience with autism? What resources have been helpful? What strategies have helped you teach autistic students? Please share them below!

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Summer Kinard has shared a wonderful four-part autism series for autistic people which is invaluable for teachers to read before welcoming a student with autism. The series begins here:https://summerkinard.com/2018/05/15/autistic-brain-owners-manual-1-make-yourself-at-home/

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Frederica Mathewes-Green wrote a poignant article called “Loving a Child with Autism” that Church school teachers would do well to read. It includes important insights and reminders like this one: “Parents are pained by their inability to reach an autistic child; he’s only a few feet away, at the other end of the sofa, but might as well be circling the dark reaches of space. But he is known by God.” Read the article in its entirety here: http://ww1.antiochian.org/node/17970

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An adult on the Autism spectrum shares in this blog post how his mind processes the world, and suggests ways that parishioners can help to better understand and welcome him and others on the spectrum. https://www.hospitablehomemaker.com/autism-spectrum-disorder/

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While this article (written by a pastor’s wife who is the mother of a child on the autism spectrum) may be old, it helps Sunday Church school teachers to think of the intangible things they can do to welcome a child with autism: https://theinclusivechurch.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/teaching-children-with-autism-the-intangibles/

She continues with this followup, which offers tangible ways to welcome the child(ren): https://theinclusivechurch.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/teaching-children-with-autism-the-tangibles/

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Find ten possible scenarios that could happen with a special needs (especially autistic) child in your classroom, together with safeguards to put in place and suggestions of ways to respond to each, here: https://theinclusivechurch.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/orange-conference-workshop-notes-including-students-with-autism/

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An Orthodox Christian mom speaks frankly to Church school teachers about her son, to help them better welcome him into their classroom, in this blog post. (In the process, she presents a series of questions teachers can ask all of the parents about their students, before they ever even meet the class, so that they know what will be helpful to each child!) Find a link to a questionnaire that you may wish to send out to parents in the future, as  well. https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/raisingsaints/unaskable-questions-answered-open-letter-sunday-school-teachers-autism-mom-plus-free-printable/

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This presentation is over an hour long and highly worth the time to watch it!  However, if you can only watch a couple of minutes of the video, please fast forward to 1:19:27 for an important message for all of us about special needs children (autistic, in this case) in our parishes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2h6HJz8154&feature=emb_title

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This blog site offers resources for Sunday Church school teachers to use (or modify for use) in their own classroom that includes students who would benefit from visual supports to the teaching. http://specialsundayschool.blogspot.com/p/visual-supports.html Find pictoral directions, visual schedule and prayer guides, and more at this non-Orthodox, but very helpful site.

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Maura Oprisko speaks to Bobby Maddex in this podcast about raising autistic children in the Orthodox Church. We were unable to find a working link to her blog, but this podcast may be helpful to teachers and parents working with children with autism. https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/features/the_least_of_these

 

Pursuing Church School Success: a Handful of Resources for Welcoming Students with Special Needs and Handicaps

In this series, we will feature resources and ideas that can increase the learning success of a Church school classroom. In each post, we will share some tips for classroom management and/or ideas for increased student participation. What we share is not a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination: there are many more ideas available. It is our hope that what we proffer can act as a starting point toward enhancing the learning that takes place in our Church school classroom. 

Every student who steps into our classroom is unique, and has needs that are individual to them. It is a great challenge for a teacher to teach such a great variety of individuals and lead them together through a lesson or learning time. It is a challenge, yes, but it is also a great honor and blessing.

From time to time, God gives a teacher the gift of a student whose needs are so unique that the teacher has the opportunity to seek new ways to teach. The student may have physical limitations, social struggles, or mental challenges that require special accommodations in a classroom setting. At first, it may be tempting for the teacher to greet those challenges with fear or dread, simply because they are new and different. However, it is our duty as Christians to love our fellow humans so much that we will help them in any way that we can. It is our honor as servants of God to extend mercy as completely as we are able. And it is our job as teachers to rise above our hesitance and learn all that we can about our students’ needs, then make the necessary adjustments in our classroom space, our teaching style, and our expectations of our students. When we take the time and effort to do so, we will not only do a better job of welcoming our students, but we will also be better able to receive from them the gifts that God intends to bestow.

In this series on pursuing Church school success, we would be remiss to not share a few resources that help Sunday Church school teachers to prepare to meet the needs of their students with handicaps or other special needs. We have encountered a few materials that can help teachers to teach such students. There are so many different kinds of handicaps and special needs that we will neither be able to include all of them, nor thoroughly address any of them. However, we will share a handful of assets which we thought may be of help to the community in this regard. We will begin by sharing general resources as well as some which focus on physical challenges and limitations. It is our hope that these will be a helpful starting place for us all as we seek to better love and help our students with extraordinary challenges.

May the Lord have mercy on us and on our students, as we learn how to learn together!

 

Here are some links that you may find helpful as you work with students with special needs and/or handicaps. Do you have any related resources that you would recommend to the community? Please share them below!

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This article may be a decade old, but the thoughts it contains and the questions that follow would be a valuable basis of a discussion amongst any group of Sunday Church school workers who desire to better welcome students of all abilities and needs. https://www.oca.org/parish-ministry/parishdevelopment/disability-and-communion

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Summer Kinard’s book, “Of Such is the Kingdom: A Practical Theology of Disability” is a wonderful Orthodox resource that helps parishioners to embrace each other, whatever their challenges may be. If you have not yet read it, we encourage you to do so, as it will bolster your love for Christ by helping you to better value and love everyone around you. We wrote about this book here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2019/10/25/gleanings-from-a-book-of-such-is-the-kingdom-a-practical-theology-of-disability-by-summer-kinnard/

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Summer Kinard’s website offers so many resources (many listed here: https://summerkinard.com/special-needs-resources/). Check out her free month of hands-on Sunday Church school lessons (which offers a glimpse into a teaching style that reaches a variety of needs of the students in your class) here: https://summerkinard.com/2019/08/11/free-month-of-hands-on-Sunday-school-curriculum/

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Those among us who “thought we had the advantages in life… find that on a spiritual level we can be severely disabled compared to our brothers and sisters who lack those intellectual giftings, but whose spiritual life can be marked by abilities and giftings we never suspected.” Read this perspective in this reflection on what the scriptures have to say about those in our midst with special needs: https://www.bethinking.org/human-life/a-biblical-view-of-disability

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“Church, we have a great opportunity to show love! The need is great. Kids are hurting. Adults are too. Families are struggling. The first step in being able to help is understanding the need. Jesus met people where they were, and so can we.” So concludes this presentation of the findings of one study on disability and the church. Read the findings here: https://church4everychild.org/2016/02/09/what-are-the-stats-on-disability-and-church/#_edn1

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This webinar can be a helpful starting point for Sunday Church school teachers and/or parishes desiring to better embrace the parishioners in their midst who face disabilities and other special needs:

https://www.goarch.org/en/-/the-church-and-families-of-children-with-special-needs-webinar

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Check out this list of resources: https://www.goarch.org/-/families-of-children-with-special-needs-resource-list

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This article offers suggestions of ways to make a church building more accessible for those with physical challenges. The article is not written from an Orthodox perspective, but many of the accessibility suggestions can be helpful as we plan (or alter) our physical space, to make it more accomodating. https://churchesbydaniels.com/four-ways-accommodate-special-needs-church-design/

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Something as seemingly innocuous as food can be very dangerous to someone who is allergic to certain ingredients. Summer Kinard’s free printable is a quick and easy way for parish members to communicate what is in the foods that they bring, so that people with allergies can be aware as they choose what to eat at coffee hour or in the Sunday school hall. It is so important that we take steps like this to show every member that their parish cares enough about them to ensure their safety. https://summerkinard.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/allergen-check-list-free-printable.pdf

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In Russia and Greece, parishes are including their deaf members by signing the liturgy. It is beautiful to behold, as evidenced in the video clips found here. https://orthocath.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/orthodox-christians-who-are-deaf-and-blind/
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In addition to Byzantine music, you will find some liturgical texts in braille at this page: http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org/music/BrailleByzantineMusic.html#Links

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In this article, a mom of a child with a genetic skin disorder expresses her wishes with regard to what happens when other children notice her daughter and her challenges. She says, “What I wish you would do? I wish you would leave this conversation with your children open to me and my family, so it could become with us, instead of about us…When your child points and tells you to look, I wish you would respond clearly, ‘Yes, look at that sweet little girl. It looks like she’s having so much fun playing, just like you are!’” Read the article in its entirety here: https://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/dear-parents-what-i-wish-you-would-do-when-your-child-comments-on-my-daughters-special-needs

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Here are helpful tips for those in our community who do not have a child with a disability, for awareness: https://www.facebook.com/ellenstumbowriter/videos/371339980392324/