Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the end goal of every Christ-centered ministry, including disability ministries. And every teacher—whether in an academic institution, a Bible study, or a church—wrestles with the question of, “How can I present my lesson or message in a way that my audience will hear and understand?”
This question is especially important to consider when you are teaching a group of individuals with special needs about God and His truths. We would like to share a few basic tips on modifying curriculum in a way that will make it more appealing and understandable to our friends with disabilities.
- Boil it down: As you review the lesson, look for the “nugget” or the key concept of the story. And then determine the simplest, most concrete way to communicate that concept.
- Personalize: Try using your friends’ names as you re-tell or apply the lesson, this can help them relate the lesson to themselves or their family.
- Incorporate action: Building movement into your lesson can help keep your friends’ attention and engage a different part of their brain. You might consider using hand and arm motions, sign language, or even dancing as you communicate or apply the lesson.
- Consider learning styles: Most people, including individuals affected by disability, will benefit from a mixture of learning styles.
- Visual learners learn well when they are able to see information displayed visually.
- Auditory learners will learn best through hearing the story or repeating it through music.
- Tactile learners will respond well when they are able to touch and feel the story.
- Experiential learners will learn best when they are immersed within the story (role-play, drama, etc).
- Enable participation in activities: Take time to coach your friends on how they can best join into games or modify game requirements if necessary. For individuals who cannot physically or verbally participate, we suggest finding alternative roles to keep them involved (i.e. coach, score-keeper, etc).
- Provide language support: There may be times when rephrasing questions or basic concepts can help our friends better comprehend what we are saying. If it is appropriate, you can also occasionally assist your friends as they express their own questions and answers.
- De-stress: Keeping the learning environment stress-free can greatly increase an individuals’ capacity to learn. You can work towards this type of environment by building breaks into the schedule, providing sensory materials, and a safe place for stress reduction.
As you modify a lesson plan or Bible story for your friends with special needs, we hope that these tips and suggestions will help you. We believe that the extra effort it may take to make the truths of God’s Word accessible will be well worth it!