Friday, August 7, 2015

Extreme Primary (Part 3): Special Needs Primaries

All Primaries are not created equal.  Or at least, they're not created with an equal number of children.  While most of the activities I detail in this blog will work for most Primaries, sometimes you have to adapt to meet your children's needs.  This Friday post is the third of a three-part series exploring ways to help your extreme Primary.  Read the first two articles here and here.

A Special Needs Primary

"Dear to the heart of the Shepherd...are the lambs of His fold" (Hymns #221).  I feel so blessed that the Lord has trusted me to care for His little ones.  Never do I feel that more than when I have a calling to help a child or youth with a special need.  Here I'll consider three categories of special needs, along with an example of how I've adapted my Singing Time to match each.

Physical & Mental Special Needs

Resource:  The Church has a lot of resources for teachers of those with special needs.  One of the pages, about Disability Resources, shared this poweful insight, "Seek ways to help the individuals with disabilities feel loved, accepted, and included. Search for and consider their needs."  This is true for any type of disability or special need.

Example:  I have taught deaf youth before.  I worked with two sisters to learn a song in American Sign Language, and together we taught the song to the class. In this way, not only were the deaf youth included, but the other class members were able to learn about the sisters' unique skills. 

Behavioral & Emotional Special Needs

Resource:  The Church's page, Managing Classroom Behavior, has several ideas.  I love that the ideas are overall principles for everyone, and they are especially applicable when helping children with this type of special need.

Example:  In my ward, we have several children with ADHD.  They are more easily bored, and they crave more physical movement and adult interaction than the bulk of my Primary children.  I plan all of my Singing Times to take into account these factors.  One girl is so eager to answer questions and participate that she is severely disappointed when I don't call on her.  I make it a point to choose her often, but when I can't, I catch her eye and mouth the words, "I'm sorry!  I need to give some of the other children a turn."  She smiles and nods, so I know this small individual interaction has helped her understand that I care about her.

Family Special Needs

Explanation:  This may seem a strange category for special needs, but hear me out.  In my time in Primary, I've taught children of single parents, children of separated parents, children adopted when they were well into their Primary years, foster children, and children who had a close family member die.  These children have special needs in their gospel learning as surely as those in the above categories.  I had trouble finding any Church resources to directly address these needs, but I found an Ensign article from a single mother's perspective that could be eye-opening as you consider another's point of view.  Please be especially mindful of these needs on Mother's Day and Father's Day.   Prayerfully consider how you can teach correct principles while still being sensitive to those whose hearts have been "pierced with deep wounds" (Jacob 2:35).

Example:  In my Primary I teach a boy whose parents are divorced.  As Father's Day approached, I contacted his mother (who lives in my ward) to discuss a Singing Time activity I had planned.  Talking with her helped me understand her son's needs and feelings, so I could be sensitive on what was, for him, a hard day. 

The bottom line?  "Every star is different, and so is every child."  Our lives will be blessed as we reach out to these divinely special children.

Happy singing!

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