If you suspect that a student has a disability that impacts learning, what should you do? Remember that our primary job in Christian education is to love and nurture all children, teens, and adult—with or without a diagnosed disability—as they grow in Christ and engage in meaningful, lasting relationships with other believers.
Often, we think that if we “just knew” what was amiss in a student, we would be able to teach and engage their hearts more effectively. A diagnosis can be helpful, but whether you know it should not prevent you from coming alongside them and helping them grow. Some students don’t have a formal diagnosis. Some parents choose not to disclose a diagnosis. You CAN help every student regardless of ability.
Instead of seeking to know a possible diagnosis, get to know your student better. First, work to understand the student’s strengths. Engage the parents to find out what strengths and gifts their children have to serve the body of Christ. Focus on building and using your students’ strengths as you next try to address their challenges.
Observe your students for any ways they seem to lag behind peers. Look for specific areas that are challenging and ask yourself questions:
- Reading skills. How can I improve reading in the classroom? Would it help to print the Bible passage in a larger font on plain paper?
- Memory recall. Is it hard for the student to recall facts, Bible verses, the catechism, or events and stories in the Bible?
- Fine motor skills. Does the student have trouble using fingers and hands? How can I make activities less challenging?
- Paying attention. Can the student stay attentive for very long? Would it help to add a buddy or include movement or multisensory activities?
Students who have teachers that believe in their progress are more apt to grow than those whose teachers focus only on their limitations. All people, regardless of ability, are fearfully and wonderfully made by God and benefit from having teachers who champion them.
Also, as you come alongside parents to know your students better, remember you are an important source of encouragement for them. They may have many people wanting to discuss their kids’ struggles and even asking about a diagnosis. But they probably have very few who love their kids and want to help them learn how to love and serve God. Assure your families that you are committed to helping every student reach their potential in their relationships with Christ and others.
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