With a little preparation, your special-needs children can be active participants in Vacation Bible School!
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Begin small. If you have never had children with disabilities at VBS, this is your year to take ONE small step forward! What would it take for you to enfold one child with a disability into one day of VBS? You and your church can do ONE day!
Enlist a Volunteer to Coordinate VBS for Families with Disabilities. VBS directors are under an incredible amount of stress the week of VBS. Find someone to work alongside the VBS director who has the time to think through adaptations and accommodations for each activity and transition.
Plan a Break Room for VBS. No, not a break room for your volunteers—a break room for your kids with special needs! Sometimes it is quite overwhelming for children who have disabilities to go from one activity to the next. A place to periodically retreat from crowds of kids for a break and free play may be the key to success at VBS for some children. A second step might be to schedule breaks for your kids in advance instead of waiting until behavior requires a break.
Gain Parents’ Trust. Most parents of special-needs children do not feel comfortable dropping their kids off in unfamiliar large group settings. To gain the trust of your parents, invite them to stay and participate with their special-needs kids, if they wish. Or ask if they will work as floaters in their children’s age groups. (Think what a blessing an extra set of hands could be for potty runs!) This will allow moms or dads to serve the church AND be confident that their children will be safe and looked after well.
Invite Children and Youth to Help. Serving the church is a vital way to grow in one’s relationship with Christ. Ask older children to serve as buddies for your special-needs kids. Have a special meeting with the buddies and explain how they can offer Christlike friendship by being there to play, help, and teach.
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