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The Wonderful Welcome program is designed for children in Kindergarten and first grade. You may find it useful to think about the range of developmental norms for this age group. In Nurturing Children and Youth: A Developmental Guidebook (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 2005), Tracey L. Hurd, Ph.D. writes that five- and six-year-old children are generally able to:
Hurd offers a variety of strategies that speak to these developmental considerations and may help leaders shape sessions effectively for this age group. Some of these include:
A group can include children with a range of physical and cognitive abilities and learning styles, food allergies, and other sensitivities or limitations. Adapt activities or use alternate activities to ensure that every session is inclusive of all participants. In World of Wonder, some activities suggest specific adaptations under the heading "Including All Participants." Feel free to devise your own adaptations to meet any special needs you perceive. As the leader, you will know best how to provide a fully inclusive learning experience for the group.
As you plan your World of Wonder sessions, be aware of activities that might pose difficulties for children who are differently abled. All spaces, indoor and outdoor, should be accessible to everyone in the group. Check the width of doorways and aisles, the height of tables, and the terrain of outdoor landscapes. Find out about participants' medical conditions and allergies, particularly to food, and make appropriate adaptations. Let your understanding of the different learning styles in the group guide your selection of activities for each session.
A helpful resource book for inclusion in a religious education setting is Welcoming Children with Special Needs: A Guidebook for Faith Communities by Sally Patton (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 2004). Patton explains how working to integrate all participants helps us practice our own faith:
Ministering to children with differences helps us be more creative in our ministry to all children and reaffirm our beliefs. Lessons of compassion, caring, and acceptance benefit us all, young and old alike... We deepen our faith when we embrace and fight for the vision of an inclusive community.
(We) ... have much to learn from these people about compassion and forgiveness, persistence and courage, and most importantly, the wholeness of their spirit and the gifts they offer if we allow them to flourish. Listening to children's stories encourages us to see each child's uniqueness rather than their limitations... Parenting, loving, befriending, and ministering to children with special needs changes people. How we handle the change will either mire us in the prevalent belief system about disability and limitations, or it will set us free and alter our ideas about who we are and why we are here.
Patton's book provides inspiration and strategies for congregations to institutionalize an inclusive faith community and internalize a spirit of justice. Consider reading this book and sharing it with congregational leadership.
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Last updated on Friday, May 17, 2013.
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