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Missions Discipleship

Creating a Learning Environment Inclusive of Children with Special Needs

This blog is part of a series on Leading Children with Special Needs that provides strategies children’s missions discipleship leaders can use to include children with special needs in missions. If you’re new to the series, we encourage you to check out the introduction here.

When we create learning environments for missions education, we often forget to plan for kids with special needs. Many preparations for special needs children are easy to include in your meeting room, but there may be some you haven’t considered. Understand that some adjustments need to be made as new children begin to participate in your ministry.

Physical Adjustment

Make your learning space clutter-free. Kids with mobility issues have enough difficulty navigating space without additional barriers such as toys, chairs, or other obstacles. Make sure the tables and chairs are the correct height to accommodate children with physical handicaps.

Sensory Adjustment

Some kids are negatively affected by loud noises and colors. Soothing, quiet music and low conversation tones help reduce sensory overload. Bright and busy classrooms often agitate special needs children. Include just the basic instructional tools for your learning space.

Supplies Adjustment

Special needs kids often require special supplies. Hands that have trouble gripping might need thicker pencils and crayons and adaptive scissors — which are easy to find at school supply stores or online. Don’t be afraid to speak with your church’s children’s minister or other leadership if you need help or funds to ensure all children have access to what they need to learn.

Educational Adjustment

Often, special needs kids will look just like other kids. They are able to socialize and interact well with peers, but they may have difficulty reading or writing. Make sure neurodiverse children feel comfortable in your class. Pair children up with buddies to complete assignments and never call on specific children to read aloud unless they volunteer.

Leader–Child Ratio Adjustment

When a special needs child joins your class, you may need to enlist the help of an additional adult in order to effectively minister to all of your kids.

Behavioral Monitoring Adjustment

Carefully watch for signs of bullying from other kids. Use situations with special needs children to teach and model compassion, kindness, and the love of Jesus.


Disclaimer: The information shared on this page is not meant to diagnose or treat any neurological, psychological, or physical disorder or disability. We encourage you to seek a mental health professional or child development/educational specialist for individual consultation and care.

This blog is designed to help leaders as they teach children with special needs. The information provided includes tips and strategies but in no way equips leaders to diagnose problems children may be having. Use the information and suggestions to help you create a rich and caring learning environment for children in your church.