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Creating a Sunday School where every child belongs: first steps

  • Foster a sense of belonging by having all children of the same age learn, work, worship, and play together as much as possible.
  • Assign someone to coordinate inclusion efforts.
  • Collect books and resources.

  • cover of the book, Every Child Can Bloom
  • Arrange teacher and volunteer training on curriculum adaptation, sensory overload and calming strategies, behavior support, safe sanctuary procedures, and managing emergency and medical needs such as seizures.
  • Plan a curriculum which allows for a variety of multi-sensory ways to address the material and help each child grow in faith.
  • Adapt the lessons and stay flexible so each child can benefit.

  • classroom with yellow wall, clock and colorful dots on wall
  • Avoid over-stimulation in the classroom. Keep bulletin boards and walls interesting—not overwhelming. Switch off fluorescent lights. Use rugs, dividers, and curtains to absorb noise.
  • Set up a quiet corner in each classroom, as well as a quiet room away from the classroom. Include floor pillows or bean bag chairs, fluffy rugs, soft objects to manipulate, books, soft music, headphones and soft lighting.

  • classroom with children on pillows, balls, and low tables
  • Provide “fidgets” and exercise ball-style chairs for children who need to move in order to listen and learn.
  • Make sure that classrooms, restrooms, parking, and playgrounds are accessible to children and parents who may use mobility devices.

  • wheelchair accessible water fountain
  • Have a plan for families who call or show up with a child who may need support.
  • Ask the family for information on each child's gifts, strengths, interests, and ways to help the child participate successfully.
  • Know students' allergies and have peanut-free and other allergy safety procedures in place.

  • Peanut and tree nut free zone, please wash your hands if have handled peanuts or tree nuts today
  • Recruit volunteer mentors (sometimes called buddies) to provide support, if needed. The parents should not have to fill this role!
  • Ask parents about additional support that would be helpful.
  • Model and teach typical children how to include children who may appear different than they are, without drawing attention to any child's disability.

  • two boys stand together as friends
  • Communicate frequently with parents, sharing successes and working together if problem-solving is needed.
  • Have the teachers and mentors debrief regularly on what works best and how to improve the experiences for all.
  • Celebrate the difference you are making, and thank God for the opportunity to become an inclusive community!

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Lynn Swedberg, May 2017