Tonya Langdon —  May 15, 2012

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.

• Do you offer parking that is close to your special needs classroom?
• Are your greeters trained to help the families find the best route to get to the children’s classroom (noise, crowds, accessibility?).
• Is your self-contained classroom well marked for visitors to find?
• Once they arrive to check their child into class, how much paperwork do you require? Is it easy to check in their siblings?
• Is your room warm and welcoming?

Once the child is in your class do you:
• Provide a visual schedule for children who have difficulty transitioning?
• A visual list of the rules of the classroom?
• Are they told what to do when they need to go to the restroom?
• What is your policy on changing Pull-Ups or diapers on older children?
• Do you have an area for “regrouping” and/or quiet area for those who are over-stimulated?
• Are there adequate items to help meet varying sensory needs? Weighted blankets, trampoline, sensory wall and/or balls?
• Does your curriculum include auditory, visual and kinesthetic presentations to foster better understanding?
• In case of a child who likes to try and bolt unexpectedly from your classroom, do you have a plan in place?

After class is over do you offer?
• Meet with the volunteers to see how things went that day?
• Do you offer ongoing training? Weekly, monthly or quarterly?

Many of Meaghan’s insights and suggestions are helping me to create a more effective learning environment for the children that my team minsters to each week. I am eternally grateful for her willingness to impart wisdom to other leaders and her kindness.

Tonya Langdon

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Tonya is married with three children. Tonya currently spearheads The Agape Connections (special needs ministry), teaches the 4th & 5th grade Sunday school class and leads a support group for parents who have children with A.D.H.D. and Behavioral Disorders at Skyline Church in La Mesa, Ca. The Agape Connections work with families who have special needs children so the entire family is able to attend church services and age appropriate church activities. In Tonya’s “free time” she is studying for ordination, writes articles and co-owns an office products business with her brother.