When educating students with disabilities it is important to recognize that they may not absorb and understand information in the traditional way. With this in mind, there are a few ways to maximize their learning experience.
1/ Ask, Observe and Identify. People learn in three basic ways, auditorially (through hearing information), visually (seeing information) and tactically (feeling information). Ask the child’s parents if they have noticed which style of learning works best for their child. If the catechist needs additional information, consider spending some time observing the child. Do they respond in a question and answer period? Do they enjoy looking at the pictures in their catechism book? Do they want to touch and feel everything on the Altar when you take a tour of the Church?
My own son, who does not happen to be learning disabled, is very visual. His teacher remarks that he rarely writes a story without putting pictures in the margins. She has observed that the pictures seem to help him process and plan his story out, so she encourages him rather than asking him to stop doodling.
2/ Work a curriculum for the student around their learning style. For example, we used to have Rosary flash cards for my kids. Every mystery had a picture they could meditate on while we prayed that decade. If he’s tactile, consider making things out of clay to demonstrate meaning. Auditory, don’t have the child read, but have a parent read to them. Don’t give them written tests, just verbal ones.
3/ Recruit some help. Faith Formation teachers are volunteers and often don’t have the time or training to specialize their lessons for a child with a disability. Consider placing an aid in the classroom or even a one-on-one aid for the child. This will move the class along without making the teacher’s job more difficult than it can already be. There may be a special ed. teacher in your parish who is not willing to teach a class, but may be willing to work with one child.
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