Adapting the Sessions to the Needs of Your Group
We’ve provided many helpful tips for accommodating various challenges that people in the group may experience. Click on the tabs below to discover ideas to try in your setting.
- Find out more about the individual and how you can best present information to fit that person’s hearing needs (sign language interpreter, wearing a microphone that is wired in to the individual’s hearing aid, closed captioning, meeting in a room with a hearing loop, and so on). Remember that hearing differences can range from people being completely without hearing to having partial hearing loss in one or both ears. It’s important to gather this information before identifying solutions.
- Seating and positioning are important. Provide a seat where the individual can see the face and lips of the primary speaker. If one ear is more impacted than the other, make sure the ear with more hearing is toward the speaker.
- Technology can be very helpful. Connecting the group presentation to the individual’s iPad, tablet, or other personal device allows the individual to enable the accessibility features on the device.
- If the individual is a reader, remember to pair written words with spoken words as much as possible.
- Some individuals with hearing aids struggle with background noise. Keeping the group noise level down or providing a quiet place to talk with a discussion partner can be helpful. Also, remind group members to speak clearly, keeping fingers and other objects away from their mouths when speaking.
- Remember that hearing is only one way to access information. Seeing, tasting, smelling, and touching are also helpful ways for people to participate.
- Find out more about the individual and ask how you can best present information to fit that person’s vision needs (Braille, large print, color contrast, and so on). Remember that vision differences can range from people being completely without sight to having partial vision or vision perception differences. It’s important to gather this information before identifying solutions.
- If information is presented in a visual way, such as with presentation slides or a video clip, include a verbal narrative of what is being presented. Either speak the narrative to the whole group or ask someone to sit beside the individual with vision challenges to provide a one-on-one translation of the material.
- If an activity incorporates physical movement, consider pairing the individual with another person so that they can move as a team.
- Be aware that moving furniture or standard items in the room can cause difficulties for people with visual differences. Make sure the individual is aware that some items have been moved, and offer a guided tour around the room for that person’s benefit.
- Technology can be very helpful. Connecting the group presentation to the individual’s iPad, tablet, or other personal device allows the individual to change the image size or background color and to enable the accessibility features on the device.
- YouVersion is a free app that features many great choices for Bible readers with visual differences. For example, on web-enabled devices an icon allows the individual to access an audio version of Scripture passages.
- Providing written or presentation materials electronically and in advance allows people with a Braille printer or screen reader to run off the material prior to the meeting. Some individuals enjoy making their own large-print or color, contrast copies in advance.
- Remember that vision is only one way to take in information. Hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching are also helpful ways for people to participate.
- Find out more about the individual and how you can best provide tools to fit that person’s speaking needs (understand how the individual may use sign language or gestures, written words, pictures, a communication device; give a yes/no response; and so on). Remember that speaking differences do not indicate how the person takes information in. For example, a person who has had a stroke may struggle with pronouncing spoken words, but that individual may understand every word that is spoken by others. Another individual may have fluent speech but very little understanding of words that others speak. It’s important to gather this information before identifying solutions.
- Give unhurried attention to a person who has difficulty speaking. Do not finish sentences for him or her.
- The lessons in these units often provide picture options so that individuals can point to a picture as a way to give an answer. If the individual has difficulty pointing but is able to look at a picture, simply cut the pictures apart and place them on the corners of a larger piece of paper. The person can then use a directed gaze to select a picture.
- If an individual uses a communication device, it’s important to learn how it works. By giving an individual or their guardian advance information, it’s possible to enter many of the words or pictures the individual might need to meaningfully enter into a discussion.
- Ask for a response that requires a gesture or movement for an answer instead of a spoken word. People with speech differences can give a head nod or shake, give a thumbs up or thumbs down response, or hold up a written response on a notecard or small whiteboard.
- Find out more about the individual and how you can best provide tools to fit that person’s movement needs (understand the body parts that work well and those that have limited movement; learn about the equipment, tools, or procedures the individual is already using, such as a wheelchair, special chair, or braces for arms and legs; know the protocol for assisting someone who is having a seizure; and so on). Remember that movement differences do not indicate the way the person takes information in. An individual may be a fluent reader, have a typical or high IQ, and also have voluntary control of eye movements only. It’s important to gather this information before identifying solutions.
- Make sure your meeting space is accessible and allows for the individual to participate in all activities. Have you done an accessibility audit of your facility? There is a good one supplied at crcna.org/disability. Consider looking through your facility together with this individual as you assess which areas will work well and which areas may cause concern.
- If an activity requires a motor response that is challenging for this person, consider using a discussion partner to complete the portion of the activity that is difficult while allowing the individual to participate as fully as possible.
- Make sure the bathrooms and drinking fountains in your meeting space can accommodate the needs of each individual present.
- Make activity substitutions as needed. If the activity asks a person to walk, change the response to pointing or telling.
- Watch your own wording. If you say, “Everyone please stand,” you have eliminated some people from following these instructions. If you say, “Everyone please rise in body or in spirit,” each person can participate.
- Some individuals have emergency plans. It’s important for at least one person in attendance to know that plan. Having it written down and accessible to the group is helpful should an emergency happen during your time together.
Sensory Processing Tips
- Find out more about the individual and how you can best provide tools to fit that person’s sensory processing needs. Remember that many individuals with disabilities have some kind of sensory difference. Some people’s sensory systems are wired to be extra-sensitive to sounds, touch, smells, or tastes. It’s important to gather this information before identifying solutions.
- Once you discover the sensory difference, consider your group’s environment. If you have an individual, for example, who struggles with certain sounds or desires a quieter environment, think about your setting and what might present difficulties. Think about ways to offer more predictable noises and a quieter setting.
- Some individuals have equipment that is helpful. Make sure they have access to those items in your setting. Some may need an item with weights in it, such as a weighted vest or ankle or wrist weights. Some may need a coffee stirrer to hold or a special necklace to chew on. Some may benefit from sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair. Learn what works in other settings and then have those items available in your setting.
- Don’t judge someone’s sensory responses by comparing them to your own responses. Saying, “That noise is not loud” may be true for you, but that individual may perceive the same sound as being very loud. Remember, every sensation is interpreted by an individual’s brain. Consider a person with sensory processing differences to be speaking the truth from his or her perspective.
Social Skills Tips
- Find out more about the individual and how you can best provide tools to fit that person’s social skills needs. Does this person avoid social settings, make social errors, become visibly upset with others, or struggle with anxiety? It’s important to gather this information before identifying solutions.
- Some people benefit from having a sneak peek at your setting and knowing what to expect. Consider using your website to offer pictures or a video tour of the room(s) where you will meet, giving examples of some of the activities a person may do, and sharing names and photos of the leaders. Some people may enjoy having a tour of the area when only the leader and a trusted peer are present. The person may want to choose and reserve a seat, experience a portion of the materials, and possibly take home an item that will be used during the first time together. Others may appreciate receiving in advance the agenda for the meeting so they will know what will take place and in what order.
- Consider providing ways to practice social skills if an individual is making errors. If, for example, someone continually interrupts the speaker, practice raising a hand or holding up a card in order to get the speaker’s attention. If someone’s voice volume is too loud for the setting, consider teaching a range for sound similar to that on a remote control. Practice speaking at different volume levels and request that voice volume be “at a 3” for a given activity.
- Once again, technology can be a wonderful asset. It’s possible for people to join you remotely through Skype or other computer applications. People can be part of a group without having to experience the anxiety of physically being present. Some people may begin in this way but opt to be physically present as they get to know the format and the people who are part of this setting.
- Every lesson gives an option for putting together a picture and word sequence of events. Some individuals appreciate having this information in front of them and will be more willing to attend an event with this guide in place.
- In some cases, you may need to give information we typically don’t provide to other adults. Information such as “This group requires people to shower before attending” or “This prayer request time allows people to give one prayer request each week” might be helpful information for certain individuals. Make sure you have done your job of gathering information before you choose this option.
- Find out more about the individual and how you can best provide tools to fit that person’s reading needs. Reading differences can include reading no words, to reading limited words or phrases, to reading at a lower reading level, to reading fluently but being unable to comprehend what is read. It’s important to gather this information before identifying solutions.
- Provide equipment and strategies that might allow this individual to read some of the material. Having a device or computer that offers a text-to-voice option can help many. Offering tools that alter the background color behind the text is also a strategy some appreciate. Preparing and practicing the reading passage ahead of time can be helpful. Learn what works for this person in another setting and apply it to your setting.
- Use your discussion partners as reading partners. While one person may be doing the reading, both can discuss the information together using words or pictures.
- For an individual who struggles to comprehend, pair words with visuals and discussion points. The materials prepared for these lessons offer many ways that people can see as well as hear. Take full advantage of these tools.
- YouVersion is a free app that features many great choices for Bible users with reading differences. For example, on web-enabled devices an icon allows the individual to access an audio version of Scripture passages.
- Find out more about the individual and how you can best provide tools to fit that person’s writing needs. Writing differences can include writing no words, to tracing key words, to copying words, to writing some words or phrases, to writing at a lower level than expected for the person’s age. It’s important to gather this information before identifying solutions.
- Provide a word bank for those able to copy words.
- Have words paired with pictures on stickers and invite the individual put the appropriate sticker on the paper instead of writing a word in a blank. Address labels work well for this.
- Pair the individual with a discussion partner and have that person serve as a “secretary,” writing down the words of the individual.
- Have the individual and his or her discussion partner share one piece of paper by putting both names on it and having one person do the writing. A great rule to make is that they must discuss the answer before writing it down.
- Provide equipment that might make writing easier, such as speech-to-text technology, specialized pencils, computers, or raised-lined paper. Find out what that person already uses and then make it available in your setting.
Tips for Severe to Profound Differences in Intellectual Ability
- Find out more about the individual and how you can best provide tools to fit that person’s understanding needs. Discovering what this person can do and what this person enjoys can be a great place to start. Knowing, for example, that music always brings a smile is important as you plan your time together. It’s important to gather this information before identifying solutions.
- Find out what equipment or tools this person is already using. Having the same communication tool available or knowing some of the signs or gestures this person uses can be helpful in adapting the materials.
- Discover an activity that the individual enjoys and make sure you always do that as part of your meeting time. If the person enjoys looking at pictures of dogs, make sure you weave that into every meeting time together. If the individual enjoys rocking in a rocking chair, have one in your meeting room. If the person enjoys a good back massage, find a discussion partner with the skill of giving a massage.
- Don’t assume that you know what and how much this individual is learning. Be faithful in presenting information in multisensory ways. Allow God to use these tools to speak to that person. Remember, God has made so many accommodations so that you can have a relationship with him. Scripture is filled with pictures of God having a face and hands and voice so that you can better relate to him. If God will do that for you, God will also do that for your group member who may need different kind of accommodations. Be faithful and do your part of including and welcoming each individual. Then trust God to speak to everyone present in a voice that is modified for each one.
- Look through some of the other helpful tips provided here, since this person may have challenges in speaking, reading, writing, and other areas.
- Offer respect by using words and actions appropriate for a person that age. Speaking to a person who is 55 years old as if he or she were a baby is not appropriate. All adults should be respected and welcomed as such.