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Helping Congregations Care for Members with Disabilities

 

The Teacher's Guide

LDS Member Resources


Lessons from Jesus Christ,
the Master Teacher

Jesus at Bethesda painting

Mariah Georgespecial challenges

Special Challenges

Helping your students and their families starts with knowing them.

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View excerpts
from the scriptures

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from the video

Matthew 18:11–14

"For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

"How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

"And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

"Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish."

3 Nephi 17:7–11

"Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.

"For I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you.

"And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him.

"And they did all, both they who had been healed and they who were whole, bow down at his feet, and did worship him; and as many as could come for the multitude did kiss his feet, insomuch that they did bathe his feet with their tears.

"And it came to pass that he commanded that their little children should be brought."

 

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Leslie Tanner

"The worst thing you can do is ignore them. . . . They can tell when somebody loves them."

—Leslie Tanner, mother

 

 

Michelle Holbrook

"One thing that has been disconcerting for me as a parent is that others will address me: 'What would Curtis like to have on his plate?' or, 'What color does Curtis like for his flag?' I always say, 'Well, should we ask Curtis?'"

—Michelle Holbrook, mother and special educator

 

Chris Phillips

"Don’t worry so much about getting to know the clinical definition of what a disability is or what it may mean for a person, but just get to know the person. Get to know their likes, dislikes, their challenges, their gifts. And in getting to know the person you’ll have tremendous opportunities to know what you need to do to help them feel welcome and included. . . . The greatest work that is happening in this area is happening one person, one conversation at a time."

—Christopher Phillips, LDS Disability Services

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TEACHER'S GUIDE

Teaching Strategies for Children with Disabilities

Teacher training video

Teacher's
Training
Video

part 1

Part 1:
Good Teaching Is
Good Teaching

part 2

Part 2:
Attention-getter

part 3

Part 3:
State Objective

part 4

Part 4:
Attention Span

part 5

Part 5:
Using Visual Aids

part 6

Part 6:
Wait-time

part 7

Part 7:
Active Participation

part 8

Part 8:
Music and Drama

 

part 9

Part 9:
Using a Schedule to
Help Reduce Anxiety

part 10

Part 10:
Positive Behavior Strategies

 


The greatest need of your students with disabilities is to feel understood, included, and loved. Avoid putting all members with disabilities, of any age, in the ward in the same "Primary" class just because each has a disability. Try to have each individual with peers their age for as much time as the individual, family, and church leaders feel is possible.
Be respectful of the individual. Treat them as you would any student by trying to provide age appropriate activities, stories, and music.

Create a class schedule, outlining the order of prayer, song, lesson, etc. to help your student feel more at peace. Providing a personal schedule may be helpful to some students who might not otherwise see the relevance of a schedule on the wall. Click here to find symbols you can use to create a schedule for church.

State your lesson objective at the beginning of class in students’ terms. Make sure they know from the beginning what they are expected to learn. Connect the content to them. Avoid simply stating a topic, describe the effect you hope the lesson to have upon them.

For example, instead of stating “today we are going to speak about kindness,” try instead saying something like, “Today we are going to learn from Jesus’ example how we can be kind to our families.”

Both creating a schedule and stating your objective simply and specifically can help reduce anxiety for some students.

Speak to parents to find out what your student enjoys. If you find that their child loves baseball, for instance, you might use a story about baseball to teach a principle. Teacher and parents should fill out a plan together, addressing:

  1. The specific goals/wishes for the child
  2. Specific needs or accommodations
  3. Health concerns
  4. Things to avoid / things to try (e.g. identify distractors)
  5. Behavioral concerns

Speak to parents to find out what your student enjoys. If you find that their child loves baseball, for instance, you might use a story about baseball to teach a principle. Teacher and parents should fill out a plan together, addressing:

  1. The specific goals/wishes for the child
  2. Specific needs or accommodations
  3. Health concerns
  4. Things to avoid / things to try (e.g. identify distractors)
  5. Behavioral concerns

  1. Adjust Seating Arrangements to Avoid Distractions
    • Try to eliminate or reduce distractors such as piano, doors, and certain children.
    • Consider: if child is not seated in the front, do they know where to focus?

     

  2. Start with an Attention Getter
    • Make it quick, short and tailored to your audience

     

  3. Break Up Your Lesson
    • The average child’s attention span lasts 5-10 minutes with some lasting as few as 30 seconds. Making a schedule will help you to effectively break up your lesson. Don’t not simply pass from one item to the next. Allow students the opportunity to move. For example, begin the lesson sitting in chairs, but stand up to sing a song, and then sit on the floor to read a story.

     

  4. Use Visual Aids
    • Use images or tangible objects. For example, when teaching about the baby Jesus, allow students to hold a doll as if they were holding baby Jesus. You may notice that they handle the doll with great care.
    • Warning: Be cautious when inviting students to pretend or use their imaginations as this can be challenging for some children, particularly those with autism.

     

  5. Leave Ample Wait Time
    • Resist the fear of silence and allow students enough time and enough silence to think. Some students with disabilities require extra time to process and respond to questions.
    • As a rule of thumb, leave at least five seconds of silence for children to reply after a question has been asked.

     

  6. Let All Actively Participate
    • Have students turn to a partner and share throughout the lesson. Ensure that all find a partner or partners.
    • Include actions (everyone touch your head) or use sign language with songs or activities.

     

  7. Use Music and Drama
    • Try to use music with every lesson to help teach and reinforce what you are teaching. You can also help support learning by having students act out a story or watch others act something out.

     

  8. Use Art
    • Invite students to draw a picture of the story you told them. You might start a drawing and let each finish it.

     

Every few minutes, take time to compliment students for good behavior. Some adults are good at catching children behaving poorly, but not nearly as good at catching them behaving well.

  1. Be Specific
    • Being specific is key for kids. Try compliments like "Good job staying seated,” and “I like how you raised your hand!"

     

  2. Compliment by Name
    • Try calling students by name when giving positive reinforcement. Try name tags if necessary.

     

  3. Report Good Behavior to Parents
    • Tell parents what went well, and not just what went wrong.

     

Make a reward that students can earn for being good, such as reading a story together, going for a walk, or getting to play a game.

Let students know your expectations for being good. State clear, measurable, and simple rules at the beginning of class. Follow these guidelines when establishing rules.

  1. Make between three and five rules together with your students.
  2. State the rules positively and in “kid” language.
  3. State the rules in observable and measurable terms .
  4. Always enforce the rules with their associated consequences—both positive and negative.

Example Rules

  1. I sit in my chair.
  2. I keep hands, feet, and other objects to myself.
  3. I raise my hand to talk and use a six-inch whisper.
  4. I follow instructions the first time they are given.
  5. I walk in the hall with my arms folded.

A co-teacher might be helpful. When two leaders share the responsibilities of the class, one can focus more fully on assisting the individual needs of all the students in a class. This is very different than one teacher called for one child with special needs which can lead to negative results. A willing teacher can be over-loaded with the most challenging classes simply because he/she can’t say no. Please be sensitive to this.

LDS Member Resources

Job 38:7

7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Isaiah 54:13

13 And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.

Matthew 18:12

12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

John 9:2-3

2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

2 Nephi 26:28, 31:3

26:28 Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.

31:3 For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.

3 Nephi 17:6-11

6 And he said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.

7 Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.

8 For I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you.

9 And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him.

10 And they did all, both they who had been healed and they who were whole, bow down at his feet, and did worship him; and as many as could come for the multitude did kiss his feet, insomuch that they did bathe his feet with their tears.

11 And it came to pass that he commanded that their little children should be brought.

Moroni 8:17

17 And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation.

D&C 18:10

10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

The Moving of the Water

Boyd K. Packer

Like a Broken Vessel

Jeffrey R. Holland

Special Lessons

Ronald A. Rasband

Encircled in the Savior's Love

W. Craig Zwick

The Works of God

James E. Faust

"Come Home, Felila"

John H. Groberg

My Joy is Full, 3 Nephi 17: 5-11

Video

Be careful to not overload willing teachers who receive the most challenging classes simply because they cannot say no. Consider whether or not parents are able to attend church or if they having to spend their Sundays at home or in the hallways of church with a child with disabilities. What could be done by a ward family to help relieve their burdens?

The LDS Church's Disability Resources Website

This website has been created to answer questions individuals may have regarding how to offer support, comfort, and an increased understanding and acceptance toward persons with disabilities. The site contains information on general disabilities and some of the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities, families, and church leaders.


The Young Church Service Mission Website

The LDS Church has done an excellent job of providing wonderful opportunities for young adults to serve as service missionaries. They have now organized these opportunities onto an easy to navigate website. This site provides guidance with questions like: "Am I eligible to serve?" "Where can I serve?" and "How do I become a missionary?”?


Handbook 2: Administering the Church, “Members with Disabilities”

“Church members are encouraged to follow the Savior’s example of offering hope, understanding, and love to those who have disabilities.”


The LDS Newsroom Topic on Disabilities

“The First Presidency urges increasing awareness, understanding, acceptance and appreciation of those with disabilities, for ‘it is [the members’] opportunity and ... responsibility to follow the example of Jesus in loving our neighbors, and that includes those with disabilities.’ ”


Learn More About : An LDS Ward Disability Specialist

You’ll learn the role of an LDS Ward Disability Specialist and the ways he/she can help.


Advice for Dad

This advice was given to a father in need, but is a clear and concise guide to anyone who is teaching a student with disabilities for the first time.


Dayton's Legs
 

Primary: Teaching children with disabilities


About the Author: Katie Steed

I am a wife, a mother, a follower of Christ, an educator, and an advocate for individuals with disabilities. I put all that I have into all that I believe.

For over fourteen years now I have had a strong focus in my life on what can be done to support members with disabilities in a church setting. I hope to use this website to share with others some of the things I have learned along the way.

Teaching Interests: Assessment, Reading Instruction, Intro to Special Education, and Supervision
Research Interests: Supporting members with disabilities to access their religion
 

My Thesis

I wrote my master's thesis on the topic of disabilities and the Church. The official title was: Instructing Teachers of Children with Disabilities within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We created a video and a handout on how to help teach children with disabilities in a Church setting. We compared whether the video or the handout was more effective in boosting Church teacher confidence. What I found was that after even a brief training, individuals felt much more competent to work with someone with a disability. You can read my entire thesis here.

View Thesis

 

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