Ideas & Tips to Create An Inclusive Environment

Setting Up The Classroom

LIGHTING - Many persons with disabilities are sensitive to fluorescent lights. Either they are too harsh, or they can hear a hum. Explore other lighting options, such as natural light, desk lamps, or floor lamps. Allowing a person impacted by lights to wear a baseball cap or sunglasses is another option.

NOISE – Some students have a sensitivity to noise. Consider placing carpet/rugs in certain areas to minimize sound. Create quieter areas, such as “book nooks”. Realize the larger the group or activity, the louder the noise. Allow persons to opt out of “large activities” or those with high level of activities. Encourage those who are able to wear ear phones or headsets to do so in order to buffer sound.

CLASSROOM ORGANIZATION – Many students with disabilities benefit from visual organization of materials/supplies. Creating an orderly environment creates a sense of security, as their world then becomes a bit more predictable. Have separate containers and storage units for toys/supplies/materials that are well labeled with pictures.

FURNITURE CHOICES – Consider offering a variety of seating options, as individuals may have difficulty sitting still or feel uncomfortable in a standard chair. Adding a therapy ball, rocking chair, bean bag chairs, and/or floor mats are a few possible options. Allow for movement in classroom/programming. Arrange furniture to help delineate specific areas or create visual boundaries.

CLASSROOM LAYOUT – Define space and usage by furniture arrangement, signs, and pictures, e.g. computer area, quiet area, story pit. Have areas/activities well labeled.

VISUAL REMINDERS – Post class/program schedules (use words/picture symbols), create checklists for students engaged in multi-step activities, and post classroom expectations/rules. Be mindful of how many posters and murals are on walls, as too much color and visual stimulation can be distracting and frustrating.

LESSON PLANS/ACTIVITIES – Vary modalities when teaching Bible lessons/stories, as persons with disabilities often have communication-processing challenges, meaning it is difficult to process heavily-auditory, scripted sections. Include more visuals and hands-on components when instructing to appeal to the other senses and make learning God’s Word more memorable.

REPETITION/REDUNDANCY – Repeat, retell, rephrase. Oftentimes, persons with disabilities need to hear a main point or concept over and over until it is processed and sinks in. Plan to repeat; students need it and like the predictability. Consider giving out lessons ahead of class time for students for whom this would be beneficial.

CREATE CONSISTENCY – Regarding schedules and activities, many children with disabilities thrive on rigid, predictable routines. It helps try to make sense of their world.

Most of these accommodations/modifications cost very little money, and most can be made by knowing the strengths and challenges of the children/youth in your programs. Many of these enhancements benefit all participants, not just the individuals with disabilities.

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