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VBS for Kids with Special Needs

All kids need to experience the love of Jesus through caring adults. God created each of us with a variety of abilities that leaders need to take into consideration when planning VBS.

Besides more obvious physical and communication challenges, you may have kids who need extra structure, require adaptations in their physical environment, or just have a difficult time relating to others. A few simple steps and modifications can make all the difference in helping kids with disabilities feel included, experience God’s love, and grow in their discipleship.

A Checklist for Directors

  • Inform families that you welcome kids with special needs and disabilities. Families often feel that churches are not comfortable with or prepared for their child’s challenges.

  • Meet with the parents or caregivers of each participant with special needs. They can provide valuable insights and suggestions concerning the specific needs of their children. Ask about:

    • the family’s experiences in church

    • the child’s interests and favorite activities

    • the child’s daily routine, allergies, medications, and any physical accommodations or special equipment requirements

    • how the child best relates to others

    • preferred coping/discipline strategies

  • Contact a special education teacher to help you understand a particular disability and ask for additional suggestions.

  • Communicate expectations to Team Leaders on supporting kids with special needs.

  • Arrange for a Safe Sanctuaries-appropriate “buddy” to help with activities or to provide gentle reminders on behavior.

  • Be alert for children whose parents have not informed you about their child’s needs. Have a volunteer ready to step in and help the child or teacher as needed.

Tips and Helps for Volunteers

Notes for all Leaders

  • Remember that kids with special needs have God-given gifts to share with us all!

  • Generate an atmosphere of love and respect, and present a positive attitude toward all children.

  • Use multiple teaching methods to engage all of the children’s senses.

  • Overlook harmless behaviors. Stay calm when you face a behavior you don’t understand, and consult your Director if you need help.

  • Keep directions simple by giving one at a time.

  • Announce a five-minute warning before the end of all activities to facilitate smooth transitions.

Craft Leaders

  • Allow extra time for kids with special needs to complete their projects. Have an extra project on hand for kids who finish quickly.

  • Provide additional assistance with cutting, and other tasks as needed for each craft.

  • Foster independence by allowing kids to complete as many tasks as possible on their own.

  • Prepare a volunteer to provide one-on-one guidance when needed.

  • For kids with visual impairments, have craft materials with a variety of textures available.

Recreation Leaders

  • Review your games to determine if adaptations need to be made.

  • Pair kids up, and encourage them to interact and work together as they play.

  • Teach each song’s sign language and motions as you go to keep everyone engaged.

  • When needed, provide words of the song in large print or braille.

Science Leaders

  • Display a visual, step-by-step guide illustrating the procedure for each experiment.

  • Allow kids to work at their own pace.

  • Encourage other kids to help them as needed.

  • Announce a five-minute warning before the end of an activity to facilitate smooth transitions.

Snack Leaders

  • Keep extra snack supplies on hand in case of spills or other accidents.

  • Ask your Director if any kids have food allergies, sensitivities, or other dietary restrictions.

  • Have snack alternatives on hand.

  • Be sure to read lists of ingredients carefully; food substances that cause reactions can be present in common foods.

  • Kids with food allergies often feel left out or treated as an “inconvenience” during snack times. Being attentive to their dietary needs shows them that they are valued. For kids with a gluten intolerance, a cookie they can eat is not just a fun snack, but tangible evidence that they are known, loved, and welcomed!