Leading Children Who Learn Differently: Tips for including Children with Autism in Missions

The diagnosis of children on the spectrum of autism has increased dramatically in the past few years. Currently, 1 in every 59 children has been diagnosed with some type of autism. Boys are 4 times as likely as girls to have autism (1 in every 42 boys has been diagnosed). There are many helpful strategies to help leaders meet the needs of these children.

With any child, structure is important; for a child with autism, structure and consistency are critical. The child will feel more comfortable and adapt better if he or she knows what to expect every time he or she attends Girls in Action, Royal Ambassadors, or Children in Action.

If possible, have an extra adult whose specific assignment is to work with the child with autism. This way, the child will get the attention and help he or she needs, and the other children won’t miss out because the leader will be focused on the entire group. However, do make sure to include every child in every activity.

When giving instructions, adults in the missions class should speak directly and specifically to the child with autism. Sometimes directions will need to be simplified as well. Appropriate social skills and meeting room rules may also need to be modeled for the child.

Almost all children, including those with disabilities, learn better using multisensory modes of learning. Anytime you can include several senses (hearing, seeing, touch, smell, taste) in an activity, more learning will occur. This is especially true for a child with autism.

Finally, if you are struggling with meeting the needs of a child with autism, there are many good resources on the internet, and you may have educators or parents who are able to assist you and give you advice. Most importantly, don’t be nervous or afraid. Children are a gift from God, and you are blessed to be their leader.

By Jennifer Smith 

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