Tuesday, July 28, 2015

CONFIRMATION: For Those with Learning Challenges

At one time or another you may run across somebody in your congregation that isn't able to go through the regular confirmation program due to learning challenges, or somebody who needs extra help. The question becomes, what is this person able to grasp regarding Holy Communion and confirmation? To learn more about specific learning disabilities, try the Learning Disabilities Association of America. Also, the University of California, Berkeley, has a great website with tips for teaching students with specific disorders or challenges including autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, learning disabilities, and more. Since everyone is different and nobody comes with instructions, you may need to try a few things.

First, be sure to check with

  • The parents, who will have tons of suggestions for motivation and behavior, and
  • Their teachers, who will be able to give excellent and specific advice that will apply to individual students' issues. 

Some students with learning challenges may need one-on-one instruction. Others may need to wait a few years, and still others may simply need some basic adjustments such as:

  • Breaking the material into smaller steps 
  • Begin by reviewing the last lesson (all good teachers do this)
  • Asking shorter, more pointed questions
  • Asking them to repeat or explain what you've said more often
  • Being patient and giving extra time or practice
  • Using as many graphics or pictures as possible
  • Simplifying complicated vocabulary
  • Choosing what is or isn't absolutely necessary for them to understand.

Building on the Rock:  Preparing for First Communion and ConfirmationRemember that all things do not always work for all students, and when there are learning challenges, this can be magnified. Also, many students with learning challenges are very bright in one way or another. Try to tap into that area as much as possible.

There is a curriculum available that was created especially for this purpose. It's called Building on the Rock and was written by Bethesda Lutheran Communities. It can be used for teens or adults.

From the Bethesda website: "This curriculum offers a structure to support the First Communion process and Confirmation instruction for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Building on the Rock is designed to offer people with developmental disabilities the opportunity to become a participating member of the church."

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