Meeting the Needs of Children with Disabilities

“Meeting the Needs of Children with Disabilities,” Come, Follow Me—For Primary: Doctrine and Covenants 2021 (2020)

“Meeting the Needs of Children with Disabilities,” Come, Follow Me—For Primary: 2021

Primary-age Children Sing

Meeting the Needs of Children with Disabilities

Primary leaders are responsible to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all children, including those with disabilities. In Primary, every child should be welcomed, loved, nurtured, and included. In this atmosphere it is easier for all children to understand the love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and to feel and recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost. The following ideas can help you meet the needs of children with disabilities.

  • Learn about the child’s specific needs. The best way to do this is to talk to the child’s parents or caregivers. Find out how the child best learns and what strategies are most helpful. You could also counsel with other Primary leaders and teachers who have experience and insights to share.

  • Create a positive atmosphere in which every child feels safe and loved. Learn the names of all the children in your class, and help them feel accepted, loved, and included. Children with disabilities are often criticized, so look for opportunities to praise them for positive behaviors. Help the other children be loving and accepting.

  • Make adjustments so everyone can participate. Small changes can be made to activities to ensure that all children can learn, including those with physical limitations or learning difficulties. For instance, if an activity suggests showing a picture, you could sing a related song instead to include children with visual impairments.

  • Establish consistent classroom routines and structure. One way to do this is to create a poster with the class schedule outlining how the class will flow. Your schedule might include prayers, teaching time, and activity time. This can help reduce feelings of uncertainty which may increase anxiety in some children.

  • Use visual cues. Children with learning disabilities or behavioral challenges may benefit from visual cues, such as pictures modeling appropriate behaviors like raising one’s hand before answering a question.

  • Understand why challenging behaviors happen. Learn about disabilities or circumstances that may influence a child to act inappropriately. Pay careful attention to what is happening when challenging behaviors arise. Prayerfully consider how to modify the situation in order to better support the child.

  • Help each child grow and progress. Joseph Smith taught, “All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 210). Don’t assume a child with disabilities can’t learn or contribute. Ask the Lord to help you know how to help the children reach their spiritual potential.