How to Use Visual Supports in Disability Ministry
Use visual supports to engage kids with disabilities in learning Bible stories! Discover techniques to effectively communicate stories to children with disabilities and learn how visual supports can create meaningful connections between children and faith. In this blog post, we’ll talk about visual supports in disability ministry.
What are visual supports?
Visual supports can help children learn in disability ministry. The above picture may look overwhelming and hard to use. If you can read and point, you can use visual supports to help children with disabilities learn Bible stories. Visual supports are images or pictures that help children understand the lesson better.
Think of books with pictures. When children are learning to read, the pictures help them know the context.
In the adult world, you may use visual supports when assembling furniture. Directions come with written directions and illustrations to help you get to the final product.
In this blog post, we will talk about how KidMin Leaders can use visual supports to teach Bible stories to children with special needs.
Why do I need visual supports in disability ministry?
Visual supports are most helpful for children with mild-to-moderate disabilities. Visual supports can:
- help children stay focused on the lesson because they have something to look at
- help head off unwanted behaviors because you are giving the child something to touch that goes with the story. In other words, the child isn’t touching others or looking for things to throw.
If children are going to be distracted and touch things/friends, visual supports go with the lesson and give children something to look at and something to touch.
Children with moderate-to-severe disabilities need multiple repetitions to learn. They are usually more successful if the words relate to what they want or their interests, and they usually understand words they hear during the day.
Visual supports help children learn new words
The Bible is full of words and concepts that are familiar to us as adults.
Children with mild-to-moderate disabilities are more successful with everyday words.
Even in this example, The Story of Baby Moses, which is a very common lesson, “Miriam” is not a common name, “Pharaoh” is not used much, and “Hebrew” may be a new word to the child. The images give the children context to what you are saying. The more children understand, the more they learn.
Here is a free visual supports activity for you to try out.
Here are the downloads!
- Moses Part 1 Visual Supports (PDF)
- The Good Samaritan Visual Supports (PDF)
- List of Bible stories with visual supports
- Visual Supports for Old and New Testaments (Members Only)
How do I use visual supports in my ministry?
Each visual supports page comes with directions for staff/volunteer/buddies so that they know what to teach and how to teach it.
As you are telling the story, you or a buddy can point to the pictures as the words come up in the story.
Children with mild-to-moderate disabilities learn best when lessons are repeated. After the story, you or the buddy can review the story.
Some ideas for reviewing the story:
- Point to and say, “Moses was a Hebrew baby” and then see if the child can repeat that or add to it by pointing to “Pharaoh said Hebrew baby boys should be killed.”
- Point to the start of a concept – “Moses was a Hebrew” and then encourage the child to point to “baby” to finish the thought.
- Let the child choose an image to point to and add to it. For example, if a child points to “Miriam”, you can respond with “Miriam was Moses’s sister” while pointing to the pictures. This strategy affirms what the child chooses and adds context.
- Ask questions and let the child answer by pointing – “Where did Moses’ mother put the basket?” – and encourage the child to point to “in the river.”
Communication involves opinions
The last row on visual supports lets children express their opinions. What parts did they like? Not like? Make sure the adult/buddy is also using the pictures to model for the child. An interactions might look like:
Adult/buddy: I like Moses’ mother.
Child: I don’t like Pharaoh.
We want children to feel successful in learning because children learn more. Instead of telling a child an answer is wrong, point to the correct picture and ask, “Did you mean – in the river? Moses’s mother put the basket in the river.”
If a child has trouble answering questions, give them choices: “Did Moses’s mother make a hamburger or a basket?”
It is always okay to lead the child to the right answer and reinforce them.
Children with disabilities often learn more when visual supports are used. Use visual supports to help children with disabilities learn Bible stories.
To gain access to ALL our visual supports, Join The Adapted Word Membership!
Here you will find hundreds of lessons and an ongoing addition of resources.