Most children with special needs who come to a parish religious education program will already be in an inclusive education program in their public school where they are learning side by side with their typical peers. When children with special needs are in a parish religious education program, they are usually in a regular classroom with support. This support may be an aide (or the parent) that has been trained to help so the child can participate in the regular program. Some children just need a few accommodations and modifications to the classroom and program. Keep in mind that each child is different their needs are different and what is appropriate for one child may be inappropriate for another.
When a special needs child is assigned to your classroom, be sure to gather information from the parents about their child before they come to class to help with the transition of their child into the classroom. When asking these questions let the parents know that this information will help identify what changes need to be made in the religious education environment and how you, as the teacher, can best teach their child. If the parents understand that you are trying to help their child, they will be more readily acceptable to answer the questions truthfully and be more at ease. Remember, the key to successful inclusion is support and understanding.
*Meet with your DRE and determine what questions to ask the parents. Below are some examples of questions you can ask.
What can I do to help your child in the classroom?
How does your child learn best?
What are some important tips from past teachers?
What strategies can I use to help your child learn best?
What are your child's strengths?
What situations do you find that limit your child's involvement?
Do you have any suggestions in overcoming these obstacles?
How can I contact you? (cell/phone number, email address, etc.)
If more information is needed, the following questions might be helpful:
What is the description or characteristics associated with your child’s special needs?
How does this effect your child’s education?
What are the accommodations and modifications present to assist your child at school?
Are there any motor skills activities that your child needs help with? (Example: writing, cutting, coloring, packing their belongings, etc.)
Are there environmental issues that we should be aware of? (Example: schedule changes, crowds, seating preferences, lighting, participating in a small group, noise, etc.)
What interventions or strategies are used for behavior?
Are their sensory issues that we should be aware of? (Example: Sensitive to certain sounds and forms of touch? Sensitivity to the taste and texture of foods? Sensitivity to particular levels of lighting, colors, etc.? Sensitivity to smell? Sensitivity to pain and temperature? Etc.)
Does your child use assistive technology?
How does your child communicate with others?
Is your child self sufficient in the restroom or does he/she need assistance?
Are there any health or safety concerns?
What other questions can you think of to ask the parents of a special needs child?
Copyright 2009 Laura Grace
About the Author
Laura Grace was a special education teacher years ago and has taught CCD for 16 years. She has been a contributor at catholicmom.com since 2006, is part of the Gospel Reflections Team, and creates lesson plans for religious education and homeschooling. In 2008 Laura started her own blog, The Catholic Toolbox where she posts activities, crafts, games, worksheets, puzzles, lesson plans, classroom tips, etc. for all ages.