Can We Really Include Teens With Disabilities?

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Dear Youth Ministry Leader,

I’ll bet that when you started your job at your church, you didn’t give special needs issues very much thought. You were just excited about sharing Jesus with the church’s young people!

You were passionate about youth ministry and ready to face its challenges. And all was going well, until one day a student with physical or intellectual disability joined your youth group. Suddenly, things got a lot harder. Perhaps you are finding a teen with special needs very difficult. Perhaps that student’s parents are difficult (Mama Bear syndrome, anyone?). Or perhaps it’s the kids without special needs who are proving to be difficult around the individual with special needs.

We want to tell you that you are not alone. We want to thank you for being concerned and wanting to find a resolution. We want to tell you that grace abounds for difficult situations like this.

And we also want to plead with you—please don’t ask the teen with special needs to leave!

We understand the challenge. For very young children, we see that integration works well. Inclusion is effective, and the kids are mostly kind and patient with one another. But as children grow and mature, the transition is often turbulent.

There are tools, however, that can help! We have seen young people and adults thrive on accessible curriculum that is designed to engage people of all abilities. We recommend using the inclusive small group model to make your youth ministry more welcoming to youth with disabilities. And we have a tool, called TOGETHER, that can help you.

The TOGETHER curriculum is suitable for those who live with special needs and those who don’t. And the best part is you don’t have to split these students up, as is so often the case in the teen and early adult years. Neat, eh?

Want to learn more? Check out the free sample sessions to see if it’s something that your youth group can benefit from. We also offer tools for adapting the sessions to the needs of your group—easy ways to tweak the curriculum so that it works best for you!

We encourage you to give TOGETHER a try. It’s full of video clips and an easy-to-use leaders' guide—lesson planning could not be easier. There’s a wide range of biblically based materials for you to explore and experience with your students. And remember, our Friendship support team is always here to help you troubleshoot and consult for specific problems. We want to help you succeed!

We’re certain that now your students all ALL levels of ability will be able learn and grow in God’s word, grasping the meaning and applying it to their lives. And we know this has been your heart from the beginning! May God bless your ministry.

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