When I was a little girl, the students at my school all looked the same to me. I did not see anyone who was different from me. I was blessed that in my church, I had a friend named Suzie. She could not speak or walk. I could see that Suzie was differently abled from me, but we were still the same, created and loved by God.
When I think of inclusion, I think of everyone being accepted, welcomed, and treated with the same love and care, no matter what. God loves and created all of us. Because we are called to love as He loves, we want to include every child who walks through our classroom door.
- Remember the excitement preschoolers bring to Mission Friends. Feel that excitement each week as you set up the classroom.
- Review developmental stages and ages for the preschoolers you teach. Know that every child develops at his or her own rate and the different levels within an age group can vary widely. Keep the norms in mind, but always plan for what your preschoolers need.
- Talk with your leaders. Plan ways to include all preschoolers in activities. Brainstorm things to say to encourage preschoolers to join activities and group time. Problem solve possible challenges to be prepared if something pops up.
- As you get to know preschoolers, look for ways to include every child in each activity area. If a preschooler uses a wheelchair, place the block activity on a table she can reach. If a child has a broken arm, provide dress-up clothes with wider sleeves so he can participate. Consider the needs of your preschoolers as you adapt activities for your group.
- Encourage your leaders to get down on the ground (or sit at the table) with preschoolers. Some preschoolers need to see a trusted adult enjoying an activity before they will join in. Others might be shy or unsure of being accepted in a group. Adopt cheerful, welcoming attitudes and watch for those who need to be included in activities.
- Consider your adult-to-child ratio. Some differently abled preschoolers may require extra assistance or supervision. Meet with parents and discuss what works best for their child. Add additional leaders to make sure your classroom is a safe and inclusive learning environment.
- Use resources that reflect differently abled preschoolers, such as pictures, toys, and books. Display photos of preschoolers with their families. This will ensure that preschoolers see themselves as loved and important to your Mission Friends class.
As you care for each child, Mission Friends will become a place where preschoolers know they are loved and included, a place they can learn about God’s love for everyone in the world.
Written by Wendy Dever