I want to share with you about an important topic that will help you know what to do when you have kids with special needs in your small groups. Special needs present special opportunities to show the love of Christ! There are probably a few kids with special needs in our small groups, whether they are diagnosed or not. And sometimes, it may be unclear how to respond in a way that helps them feel loved and included. I'd like to share a few ideas with you today to remember as you love these kids and their families.
- ASSUME THE BEST: Always assume that every kid or teenager can and wants to participate. If they don’t want to, or they can’t, wait for them or their parents to let you know. Otherwise, assume they’re there because they want to participate.
- KEEP ENGAGING: If a child in your group seems rude or shy, doesn’t want to make eye contact, or has difficulty relating to other kids in your small group, remember they might be on the autism scale, which makes all of these things more difficult. Keep engaging them in conversation when you can, and don’t take it personally when you can’t.
- BE RESPECTFUL: If you have a student in your group with an assistive device, like a wheelchair, walker, or crutches, treat that device as an extension of their body. Don’t use their device as a coat rack or something to lean on, and always ask permission before moving it. You can always offer to help, but don’t assume your help is needed.
- MODEL IT: The other kids in your group will take their cue on how to act from YOU. So when a kid with special needs is in your group, try to never act upset, nervous, or worried about having them in your group. Act like their presence in your group is no big deal. Be just as excited to see them and as friendly as you would be with any other student.
- GIVE A HEADS UP: Sometimes, you may need to give your group a heads up when a kid with special needs will be joining them. Let your group know what he or she might struggle with as they join the group, and help your group list the similarities they have with their new group member. You may want to have a small brainstorm session where they can think of all the ways they can make their new friend feel comfortable in your group.
- PARTNER WITH THEIR PARENTS: When you are talking to the parent of a kid with Special Needs, go above and beyond to make their experience the best it can be. Their parents are probably expecting things to not go very smoothly, so try to be as welcoming and loving as possible to the whole family. And don’t be afraid to say something kind and positive!
- GRAB A CONVERSATION GUIDE: We have a quick bullet point Conversation Guide on some things to say to relate to and partner with a Parent of a kid with Special Needs. Feel free to grab one today for more tips or Click Here!
This is a much bigger topic, but I wanted to give you guys a quick set of tips as we dive into our groups this week. You never know which Sunday you’ll have a first time guest with special needs, so we want you to have a general idea on how we handle this as a ministry. I’d love to chat more so if you have questions, come find me Sunday or e-mail me this week. Let’s go to coffee and talk!