Meeting Special Needs through Adaptation and Modification in School Settings

by Doreen Engel, M. A.

When planning religious education for children in Catholic schools, consider the following:

  1. Use technology resources. For example, students with proper documentation can get any book, including religion textbooks, on audio CD from This allows students with weak reading skills to listen to their assignments.
  2. Help children who are shy or who have trouble with speech participate. Tell them in advance “Tomorrow, I am going to call on you first and ask you ______________________.” This way, the child can prepare his answer in advance and achieve success.
  3. Develop ideas for parents to supplement classroom lessons. When studying the sacraments perhaps a child can attend a baptism or look through her parents’ wedding album. Is there a movie that could help emphasize the life of a specific saint?
  4. Offer options for assessment other than pencil and paper tests.
  5. Be gentle when discussing the miracle stories in the Gospels. Consider how a child with epilepsy might feel about discussing Matthew 17:14-17.
  6. Studies have shown a relationship between a parent’s confidence in raising a child with a disability and the quality of his or her childhood experiences with individuals with disabilities. Consider what the inclusion of a child with a disability in your religion class might mean to the faith formation and future parenting of his/her classmates.
  7. The National Catholic Education Association and the Network of Inclusive Catholic Educators sponsor yearly conferences for teachers and parents of children with special needs, along with publishing many helpful resources.

Helpful websites: