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Editor's Note

There are several variations on incorporating special needs kids in a Rotation Model Sunday Schpol. The number of children and their particular challenges are two big variables affecting the way you adapt your program to the kids. The discussion below has some great advice for all.

We are starting a new class for children with special needs and using a modified Workshop Rotation Model with them.  Some of our kids attend our regular program with mentors, but we have a few families who just don't bring their children because they couldn't be in a regular classroom.  Anyway, I am looking for a name for this class - something that does not scream "special needs."  If anyone would like to share ideas or names of similar classes you've seen, I'd sure be grateful.

Would also like to share special needs Sunday School experiences and advice.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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In answer to your question about names...
I would suggest names that you would use for any children's class.

I worked as a recreation therapist in facilities and camps, and they like to be treated as much as normal as possible.

Some suggestions could be The Explorers, King's Kids, Treasure Seekers, etc. Do you have names for your other groups? Think of one that will fit in with their group names. Hope this helps. It's so nice to hear of a church that wants to incorporate kids with special needs. God Bless. Cindy
Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm
WOW to have a separate class you must have a lot of kids with special needs. I work with children with special needs and am very excited to get more kids into our church as I feel the rotation model is perfect for kids with special needs. It seems there are so few places they can "fit" in with their peers. I work one on one with children with autism and my goal is always to have them in with their class peers as much as possible.

There are many things you can do to your workshops for them to have success there too. For instance, visuals are very helpful for all kids but especially for kids with special needs. If you have an art project break it down step by step with the class watching, cooking or science projects having directions/recipe enlarged and pictures added. I know that these may take more time but you will doing a lot of prep for the other class

I have used additional teachers to be sort of one on ones in Sunday school and that has worked well. I know that means more volunteers but if you are putting them all together you are needing more volunteers too.

Also if children have severe disablities they are usually are eligible for personal care attendants(PCA's). PCA's will not only take the children when parents are gone but also in church for Sunday school. PCA's will adapt the curric. as they go. If they are not severe then I see rotation working well with them, especially the younger ages as the differences between preschool to about first grade are not as large/obvious. It certainly depends on the disablity too!
Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm
Thank you all for your suggestions thus far!  Just to clarify our need, here is our situation:

We have about five kids with special needs whose parents are asking for something separate from our regular program.  We have a set of autistic triplets, two of whom have been mainstreamed with a mentor, a blind boy with some other cognitive challenges, and a little girl with Down's Syndrome. 

Our church also provides room space to a community organization that provides therapeutic arts to children with physical, mental and emotional impairments, so we have the possibility of more children attending. 

We plan to have the kids participate as they are able in the regular program, but we wanted to provide something for those who are just not able to do that. Our regular rotation model is called CrossWalks, and while we have names for our rooms, we don't have names for each age group.  We color code them instead, with the colors of the rainbow.
Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm
Hi Cindy!

Thanks for your post! We have an autistic boy who will be rotating this year. He's 6, and up until now he's been in the preschool class. His mom told me today (by e-mail) he should be in the kindergarten class. I'm somewhat concerned about him rotating, as he doesn't do well with change. He does like the computer lab, but his parents don't want him to use them. (I still haven't figured that one out). I'm trying to encourage this family to come up during the week and try out the programs, but so far they've declined.

So, how do I encourage them to try the computers and how can we help this child participate and not get agitated when he has to move to the next workshop? I was thinking I will have to have the schedule of workshops a couple of months in advance, but that isn't always easy. What do you suggest?

Julie Burton, DCE
1st Presbyterian Church, Sapulpa, OK
I work with children with autism, specifically preschool and elementary level and I see rotation being awesome for them.

Some suggestions for your 6 year old to have success are having visual directions, sequences for him. The best way for him to handle understanding the different workshops would be a picture schedule that is used at church and at home. I would ask the parents what they would suggest for him to be successful.

As far as the computer part goes....that is strange that they would not want him to do that one, it will be harder on him to NOT to do that one when his class is there doing it. Special needs kids tend to really enjoy the computer. And they get used to routine.

Kids with autism have trouble understanding or adjusting to If schedule change in Rotation happens without notice to them, they get stressed trying to figure out what is expected of them next. I don't see rotation stressing special needs kids because it has a schedule and each workshop has a concept and theme they can look forward to. With notice from parents and your schedule posted it would be great for him. Parents might have the workshop schedule visually displayed at home and explain it each week. Advance tours might help too.

Churches will be seeing more and more kids with autism and we really need to be ready for that.

Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm
Thanks, Robin!

I spoke with the dad this week and also mentioned visuals, so I'm thinking posters, etc. For some time now I've put the workshop signs on the bulletin board; they all have pictures of the workshops. I was thinking of making cards for him to have at home like the workshop signs. I will try to have the workshops lined out a couple of months in advance so they can prepare him.

The preschool he attended had a butterfly garden that Trey liked to go to when he'd get frustrated. We are creating a reading room, which will have a simple labyrinth on the floor. Trey roams when he gets anxious, so I thought the labyrinth might be helpful. (Please tell me if that's a good idea!). Since he likes butterflies, I thought I'd get a butterfly mobile to hang in there also.

Am I on the right track?

Thanks again,
Julie Burton
Julie, Yes, someplace for him to go when he can't take it anymore is great.

Some things he may really like there are silly putty (comes in little eggs @ any retail store), kooish balls, squeezy balls, marble mazes are great too and would fit your maze theme, things to look through are also usual hits, kalidiscopes, binoculars, water things too you can buy things with oil and water in them or make your own from pop bottles using oil, glitter, beads in them (secure the tops real tight!).

Many of the above items I use in the regular classroom for helping with attending too. I would suggest you use velcro for your workshop pictures and put on a velro strip then they can move the pictures where they want too. Makes it very flexible. Any other questions let me know. Robin
Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm
As a former Social worker with people with disabilities I commend your decision to mainstream whenever possible. Other children will learn more about caring for all God's people better through having a disabled child in their class than they will through any lesson plan.

While the stimulating environment of Rotation is great in many ways, for some children with severe disabilities the changing of rooms and changing of faces can be unsettling. If that turns out to be the case consider bringing the workshop into the kids, not the kids into the workshop. Also make sure you can find shepherd willing to make long term commitments.

I know you would never do this, but for anyone else reading this, PLEASE don't put a 5th grader with a first grader because he's "at that level." It's humiliating.
I am a social worker also that works with autistic children, and i think it is great that the church is starting to reach out to these families!!  My advice is to continue what you are doing by seeking out help and advice, research as much as you can to understand your special needs children better. 

The more you understand them the easier it will be to work with them.  I see so many people just give up, because it's too hard or they just don't have the patience.  Don't give up!!  And I agree that mainstreaming the children is always the best thing to do if you can.  These children are seperated enough in life from "normal", people they shouldn't feel different or seperate in the House Of God.  If your having problems in the class room with the children ask the parents to come and show you how to handle them better during class time. We can learn a lot from the parents, they are the real experts!!

Remember also to minister to the parents. They need as much support as you can give them.
Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm

I know this is late, seeing the date on your orignal post. But, we also have a special needs class, but we are not putting them into our rotation, but they do meet in our childrens area. We call the class God's Special Agents.
Hope it helps

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Here is an article with lots of practical suggestions: Understand 2 Types of Special Needs Ministry for Your Small Church

The author suggests ways to welcome special needs children into your current ministry and also has suggestions of ways to serve the children and their families in an exclusive special needs ministry (including a great suggestion for a buddy/mentor vbs).

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