Even though there may be snow on the ground where you live, now is the perfect time to start thinking about the summer activities your churches offers for kids and how you can include more children with disabilities this year.
Our small church in Pennsylvania hosted vacation Bible school and a sports camp each summer and both were open to kids with different disabilities. It didn't take much extra work, but it did take us being open and accommodating, with a plan from the beginning to serve more kids. Here's how we got started ...
- List the activities you offer and the challenges children with disabilities may encounter at those activities. For example, loud music and overwhelming decorations at VBS. Or the heat at sports camp. Or making sure kids get the medicine they need at overnight camp.
- Think of solutions for these challenges. In the example with loud music, you could use noise reducing headphones. For kids who may be overwhelmed by decorations or other sensory input, have a calming room where kids can go and relax. At our church's sports camp, we had a child who couldn't regulate her body temperature. She had a one-on-one buddy who kept an eye on her and carried a cooler with cold drinks. Lots of camps have nurses on staff. Could you coordinate with him/her to make sure the child gets what he needs?
- Train volunteers. There are lots of teachers and therapists who would love to spend time helping your volunteers serve special-needs families! If you plan now, you'll have time to get a couple training sessions in. Start by asking members of your church who may be special-ed teachers or therapist themselves. Then ask schools or other churches in your area who they would recommend.
- Ask for parent input. What activities do the special-needs families in your church want to attend but feel like they can't? What would help their kids? Take time to ask and listen.