4 Ways to Include a Child with Limited Communication in Group Prayer
You may have a child, teen, or adult in your ministry with a disability that makes it especially difficult to communicate verbally-meaning that they do not use words or sounds that are typically understood by multiple listeners. If that is the case, here are some ways to support them in their unique abilities to independently participate in one of the most central aspects of ministry.
1. Pass out material
Students with limited verbal or vocal communication can still participate by helping pass out materials. Prompts may be required, but this is a cool way to include a child in the group in their own way. Be patient with the time required for the person to pass out the materials and add this to your planning.
2. Use device to intro/end
As a group, agree that the child who has limited verbal or vocal communication gets to either start or end the prayer by using their personal form of communication. Some can use an Augmentative and Alternative Communication device, a Picture Exchange Communication System, or sign language to communicate in their own way.
3. Incorporate Signs and Gestures
While someone in your ministry may have limited verbal or vocal communication, perhaps they are able to make some physical movements or approximations. Teach the whole group physical movements that match your participant with limited communication in their ability and aim for something easily generalized to other prayers or activities.
4. Get comfortable with silence
Silent prayer is already something that is typically incorporated into your ministry. Model and teach the whole group what observable behaviors constitute a listening posture. Guide the meditation so those in your ministry have something to think about or visualize as they are praying. Don't be afraid to remind those in the group to go back to the listening posture.
The most important thing to remember is that as you use the unique gifts and abilities of your ministry attendee to enhance their participation, you are not only strengthening the community and providing vital inclusiveness, but you are also allowing the others in your ministry to develop compassion and their own capacity to be truly inclusive.