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OC12

Tonya Langdon —  May 15, 2012 — Leave a comment

I was blessed this year to be able to attend the OC12 Conference in Atlanta, GA for the first time. Wow, what an amazing conference! With 100+ workshops to choose from including eight that help us to minister to children who have special needs or learning differences! As the Special Needs Facilitator for Skyline Church in La Mesa, California I was excited to learn new ways to serve these families more effectively.

One of my favorite workshops was Meaghan Wall’s “How to Create a Special Needs Ministry Environment”. In this workshop Meaghan gave us great ideas and concepts to make our classroom environments a place where the children are safe, sensory needs are met and where they are able to learn about the love of Jesus. She helped us to learn and consider everything that a family with child/children with special needs encounters from the time they drive onto the church property to the time that they leave.

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Navigating a New Church

Tonya Langdon —  April 26, 2012 — 1 Comment

Going to a new church is a nerve racking for many families. They are nervous, overwhelmed and are not sure where the sanctuary is, where they are supposed to go to drop off their children and how to pick them back up after service. For families who have children with special needs, changes churches are often a major undertaking. They may have experienced their child being rejected (asked not to come back), their child melting down from the crowds and sensory overload. Just getting to the front door of your special needs ministry maybe a quite an adventure for them.  Does your church make it easy for these families to attend church? What improvements can be made to help assist them?

Drive onto your church campus from the perspective of a parent who has children with special needs. How would they know where to park? Best way to navigate their way to the special needs classroom? Are there a lot of crowds or loud noises?
After speaking to new families so I could better prepared for them as newcomers, I found the following tips to be the most helpful:

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Volunteers? Where are all the volunteers? At times we struggle to find volunteers to work within our special needs ministries. In yesterday’s workshop lead by Linda Martin, she suggests that in order to effectively recruit volunteers there needs to be an awareness of your special needs ministry. For many churches across the nation creating awareness that there is a special needs ministry within their church is challenging. When people within your church and community are aware that you have a thriving ministry that works with families and their children who have special needs, you will find those precious volunteers.

How do you create awareness of your special needs ministry?
• Ministry Fairs-great way to interact with people who may be interested in volunteering
• Share your vision and enthusiasm for your ministry with others. Others will be impacted by your passion.
• Catchy, attention grabbing bulletins
• Video spot during church announcements
• Facebook-this is a great tool! I have found 4 volunteers in the past week through social media
• Invite special guest or speakers to your church–Nick Vujicic, Joni Erickson Tada, etc…
• Draw people to your room–pictures, brochures, prayer boxes, bulletin boards
• Publicize special events that you are having in the bulletin
• Be active in the community–team walks, resource fairs, activities
• Foster relationships with agencies that will allow you to post your events on their site as a resource for families
• Wear shirts , buttons and hats that advertise your ministry
• Put a sandwich sign outside your children’s floor.
• Ask…simple ask people if they would be interested in working in your ministry.
• Ask your prayer team to pray for people’s heart to be stirred and to step out in faith
• Let your pastor’s what you are doing and what your results from your outreach efforts

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The dynamic workshops I attended today will enable me to better minister and meet the needs of children who have developmental or behavioral differences. The classes that I attended are:

  • Using Technology for Special Needs presented by Meaghan Wall,
  • Multi-Sensory Rooms presented by Karen Pool,
  • How to Create a Special Needs Environment presented by Meaghan Wall
  •  How to Train and Retain Special Needs Ministry Volunteers presented by Linda Martin.

These ladies were incredible!

Imagine how we can use IPads to minster to tweens and teens with special needs, to provide special areas for children who need a sensory “time out” or how to find volunteers who want to work with kids with special needs (okay, once you have them then what?). Over the next several days, I will be sharing what I have learned in those workshops and to encourage you in your special needs ministry.

Words

Tonya Langdon —  April 12, 2012 — 1 Comment

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight”. Psalm 19:14

Words are powerful. We use them to tell others how we feel, what we are thinking, to share information and even communicate how we feel about ourselves. The words you speak can bring comfort, give much needed encouragement, relay instructions or express love. However, words have the power to wound others, to create discord or cause chaos in a classroom. I remember as a child hearing the chant “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Unfortunately, this is not true. Pain from a physical injury fades but the words that are hurtful or hateful linger long after the situation is over. Words can heal or they can crush a spirit.

Have you noticed the words you speak when you are having a particularly difficult day with the kids in Sunday school? Are they words that help to calm the class or inadvertently fuel the misbehaviors? Many times it is not the words we use but the order we use them in that makes a difference in how the kids respond to our requests.  For instance a child is pestering his neighbor, typically an adult would say “stop bothering your neighbor” or “keep your hands to yourself”. It is far more effective to say “Johnny, you are welcome to sit next to Tom as long as you are not bothering him and can keep your hands to yourself”. Johnny now knows he is in charge of whether he gets to sit with his friend Tom. Another example, you have a child who is being disrespectful. Typically an adult will say “Don’t come back into the class until you can show me some respect!” or “Don’t talk to me like that”. Instead, the conversation could go “Tom, feel free to come join the class as soon as you are calm and respectful” or ” I will listen to you when you are being respectful”. Using this type of wording teaches Tom that he has choices over how he is going to behave and the consequences are directly tied to his choices.

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I always dreamed of being a mom; as matter of fact I can not remember a day when this wasn’t so. So when we adopted our son, Jonathan, my dreams of being a mom came true!  From the day we picked him up from the foster parents’ house to bring him home, our lives were forever changed, and we were launched into a journey that we could never have foreseen or dreamed up!

By the time we started attending church in 1995, Jonathan had already been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD).  He was 10 years old, and by the time he turned 11 he was also diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. We had sought medical and behavioral advise from medical doctors, psychiatrists and therapists. Like many parents who are rearing children with behavioral disorders, our lives were filled with a lot of stress and challenges…well, really a lot of  problems.  Some problems were typical challenges that most families face; however we had additional challenges that were severe and ongoing.  How were we going to pay for the therapist that the insurance did not cover? Who was going to stay home when he was suspended from school again (in preschool we were asked to leave the school due to his behavior)? What are the options for behavior management and medications? How was his behavior going to affect his relationship with his younger brother? How were the other kids going to accept him, especially after Jonathan started displaying symptoms of Tourette Syndrome? What were we going to do when he had another melt down? When will this end?

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Living With Tourette Syndrome?

As a parent of a son with ADHD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder and Tourette Syndrome, I have walked through some pretty harsh wildernesses. For my son, Tourette Syndrome is the one diagnosis which frequently resulted in unwanted stares.  It brought annoyed and angry adults telling him to stop a vocal tic which was the result of the diagnosis, and in general hurt his self-confidence. Many people do not understand the disorder and believe that the individual can stop the tics “if only they really wanted to”. Really? That is like asking you not to scratch an itch on your arm, what do you do when someone tell you that? You think about that itch! The more you think about not scratching that itch, the more pronounced the itch becomes! That is similar to what happens to an individual who is trying to suppress a vocal or motor tic. It takes lots of mental energy to suppress the tic leaving very little available for learning and interacting with others.

What is Tourette Syndrome?

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According to Jerome Kagan PhD, 10-15% of children K-8th grade are very shy. 25% tend to be outgoing and sociable and the rest fall in between. A shyness expert at Indiana University found the percentage of shy teens is about the same as adults which about 40%. The more  signs of shyness that appear; the more likely that the child will become more upset and will be less able to handle the situation. What are some of the signs of shyness or anxiety

  • Frequent trouble talking
  • Stammering, Stuttering
  • Speaking in a whisper or not at all
  • Look visibly anxious when called on
  • Appearing to “freeze” when spoken to
  • Sweating hands, Shaking, Racing heart
  • Blushing, Crying, Embarrassment after a minor mishap
  • Looks down when spoken to, Stays close to a family member
  • Constant thoughts of how the conversation is going to go
  • Consumed with their appearance and whether others will like them
  • Shows significant and persistent fear of social situation in which embarrassment or rejection may occur
  • How quickly they can get out of the situations that make them anxious

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Game Day Memories

Tonya Langdon —  July 12, 2011 — Leave a comment

Baseball Games! Oh how I love to watch the San Diego Padres play baseball! There is excitement in the air when you go to Petco Park to watch them play, eat a hot dog or two and seeing the fireworks go off when one of the Padres hits a home run!
Sadly, many families who have children with special needs will never attend a baseball game at Petco Park; until now.

Bo Mitchell, who has served as the Denver Nuggets Chapel Coordinator, noticed how many empty seats there were in the area reserved for those with disabilities. Game Day Memories was created to reach families with children with special needs and  by provide them with tickets FREE of charge to local sporting events. Recently, Focus on the Family and Game Day Memories joined forces to reach more families throughout the nation. Each liaison, like myself , then distributes these tickets to the families with children who have special needs. To assist the families , they are paired with a hosts (they also receive free tickets). These amazing hosts will serve these families and their children during the game, giving them a much needed reprieve from their daily challenges and obstacles, while providing some time of fun and fellowship.

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Children with difficult behavior and those with a  diagnosis of Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) often leave us frustrated, resentful or angry. What tools do we need to effectively minister to these children and their families without sacrificing our Sunday school lessons?

Choose your battles carefully!

These children will vie for control of the class and engage you in a battle if you are not careful. Is the issue at hand a battle that you want to win for the sake of being right or is it a battle where safety is an issue? Often times, not acknowledging their comments or attempts to manipulate will help you to stay in control. This is not always easy, but it is worth the effort so your classroom is not disrupted and learning can take place. Control battles with a child with ODD are destructive to everyone and creates a huge amounts of stress.

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