Children and Youth Inclusivity

Sunday School Where Every Child Belongs

Lynn Swedberg, United Methodist Deaconess and disability consultant, May 2017

First Steps

alt text = Yellow walls in room with bean bag chairs

  • Foster a sense of belonging by having all children of the same age learn, work, worship, and play together as much as possible.
  • Assign someone to coordinate inclusion efforts.
  • Collect books and resources.
  • Arrange teacher and volunteer training on curriculum adaptation, sensory overload and calming strategies, behavior support, safe sanctuary procedures, and managing emergency and medical needs such as seizures.
  • Use curriculum which gives a variety of multi-sensory ways to address materials and help children grow in faith.
  • Adapt lessons and stay flexible so each child can benefit.
  • Provide “fidgets” and exercise ball-style chairs for children who need to move in order to listen and learn.
  • Make sure classrooms, restrooms, parking and playgrounds are accessible to people who use mobility devices.
  • Have a plan for families who call or show up with a child who may need support.
  • Ask families for information on each child’s gifts, strengths, interests, and ways to help them participate successfully.
    alt text= red line through peanuts in a circle
  • Know students’ allergies and have peanut-free and follow allergy safety procedures.
  • Recruit volunteer mentors – sometimes called buddies – to provide support.
  • Ask parents about additional support that would be helpful.
  • Model and teach all children how to include children who may appear different than they are, without drawing attention to any child’s disability.
  • Communicate with parents, sharing successes and working together if problem-solving is needed.
  • Have teachers and mentors debrief regularly on what works best and how to improve experiences for all.
  • Celebrate the differences you make, and thank God for the opportunity to become an inclusive community!

Welcoming Resources

Celebrating Diversity: Welcoming all abilities | Laura Buchanan, UM Communications, Dec 2017

Every Child Can Bloom | United Methodist Church disability consultant and writer Naomi Mitchum’s  website has topics from emergency planning to inclusive classrooms.

Including Special Needs Children in the Life of the Church | Elizabeth Christie, Discipleship Ministries

Resource List for Churches reaching out to include children with disabilities and their families | Lynn Swedberg, March 2018

Welcoming Children with Special Needs: Resources for Leaders and Book lists for children from UM Discipleship Ministries