For Body & Soul: Confirmation Resources for Special Needs
I love to hear of pastors willing to bring Christ to children with special needs!
For the mildly challenged child, you may need to modify in only three ways:
- Require only a few key verses to be memorized.
- Conduct classes orally and allow oral responses to your questions.
- Teach with visual cues to accompany spoken terms.
For the more significantly challenged child, such as those with intellectual disability, I recommend considering these resources:
1. For teaching the Six Chief Parts, each book explains one of the six parts. This set is very catechetical and may serve you well.
2. For teaching the words of our Christian faith, consider this book: Our Faith from A to Z. The format is highly visual and accessible, which will be important, given her hearing difficulties.
3. For biblical literacy, you can read aloud — or assign her parents to read aloud nightly — The Story Bible. To cultivate a habit of prayer, simply have them engage her in the brief but good prayers that accompany each story.
4. I have not used this, but you can take a look at this program for individuals with special needs to prepare them for Holy Communion: Simplified Catechism.
5. Perhaps you have already seen this: Building on the Rock. I have not taught from this program, but if you want something pre-packaged, this program might interest you.
-Be sure the student wears any needed glasses or special hearing devices beginning any class.
-Do not require the student to write sentences. You might have her draw something to indicate (or to promote) understanding. For example, drawing drops of water, a Bible, and an arrow between them to demonstrate Holy Baptism is not mere water, but water connected to the Word. You might draw this on the board and have her copy. Or she might trace your drawing on paper with a yellow highlighter.
-Conduct your classes orally, face to face, one-on-one. Allow her parent(s) to be present in the room, if this helps the student.
-Be rich in presentation with verses from God’s Word. While our theological terms (justification, propitiation) may not “stick,” God’s Word is powerful unto salvation.
-Even though you will teach many verses of Scripture throughout her classes, select one especially rich Scripture verse for special emphasis. Teach this same verse every session. Review the verse at the beginning and end of each class one word or phrase at a time. [Example: “The Lord” – she repeats “The Lord” — do this the first class, several times. Next time “is my shepherd” – she repeats “is my shepherd.” When she is read, put them together, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Increase the length of the verse, as long as she can master it.] The verse you select can become her confirmation verse. If needed, this can also become her sole memory verse for reciting on her confirmation day. Create pictorial clues for phrase flash cards, and have her parents work on it at home, if needed.
-Similarly, teach her the refrain or closing verse of one hymn. Sing this hymn to open or close every class with her. Have her sing with you on the portion she knows.
-Focus on your Words of Institution. Jesus says, “This is my body, .. this is my blood.” Have the elements of the holy sacrament present in each class. Review this key message every week. After all, this is the heart of confirmation, the purpose of your instruction: her understanding that in the Lord’s Supper, she receives Christ’s body and blood for her own forgiveness. Teach the pro me aspects of holy communion, and repeat this over and over, every class. “(Her name), this is given for you, for the forgiveness of your sin.“
Even though all of this will be very challenging, you may find it refreshing to break down confirmation class into its most essential, life-giving basics.
If you need anything, or if you have questions or concerns regarding anything here, feel free to follow up or leave a comment. I have two such children and a master’s degree in special education. I firmly believe we need more resources for our pastors. Until then, I hope some of the above is helpful.
You may also want to point out to the student’s parents or school personnel that we now have a full year-long academic curriculum designed just for children with special needs. Our biblical literacy books are from Concordia Publishing House.
They might also appreciate the book on which the curriculum is based, Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child, foreword by Dr. Gene Edward Veith.