General Tips for Welcoming Children of All Abilities:
- Get to know the child as a unique person—what does that child enjoy and what areas are challenging? Eye-level contact and a warm smile can communicate an open invitation to get acquainted.
- Use age-appropriate language and activities.
- Don't do anything with the group that one child has no chance to do successfully.
- Don't feel sorry for the child. Respect the child's need to develop independence; be patient and praise the child's best effort.
- Consider what peers may need in order to best understand and accept their friend with differing abilities. Sometimes children need specific information or an intentional discussion. At times that may best be done in general terms, stressing that we all have areas of strength and challenge. Other times, in consultation with parents, it may be wise to speak specifically about that child’s unique gifts and challenges to the group. Consider whether this is best done in the child's presence or absence, but stress that it's okay to talk about our differences and similarities; point out that we each have things that we struggle with, whether they’re visible or not; and talk about how everyone can be loving and kind. (See Helping Kids Include Kids with Disabilities for specific lessons and ideas).
- Keep communication open and honest between you and the child's family. Request information from the family and offer your support. Avoid using parents as their child’s buddy during children’s gathering times. This is a chance for parents to be filled in worship, learn in adult education, or have a cup of coffee with other adults.