Church to host ‘tweaked’ VBS for special needs children

John Huthmacher

Apr 30, 2017 Updated 8 min ago

First Presbyterian Church is offering a Vacation Bible School catering to children with special needs.

Modeled after its traditional VBS program, the new interdenominational class incorporates special education teachers, occuHastipational therapists and others well familiar with special needs children to create an experience geared to meet youngsters where they’re at while simultaneously setting the minds of their parents or caregivers at ease.

“We want the parents to feel comfortable bringing their children here,” said Stephanie Brader, director of children’s education at First Presbyterian. “A lot of children miss the opportunity to attend Vacation Bible School because their parents maybe don’t feel comfortable leaving them with a lay volunteer, so we’re bringing in specialized help to make them feel comfortable.”

The idea of adding a special camp for special needs children was brought to Brader by longtime First Presbyterian lay member Jane Marsh, who has worked with special needs children for years. Marsh was inspired by a Vacation Bible School program she observed while volunteering at her daughter’s church in Millard.

“She was just amazed and wanted to make that happen here,” Brader said. “She contacted me and asked, ‘Can we make this happen?’ So we’re trying it.”

Following the same curriculum as the church’s regular program, which this year runs from 2-5 p.m. May 22-26 at the church, the special needs version is from 9-11 a.m. May 22-25 and is tweaked to include specific tools that address the special needs of its participants, Brader said.

For starters, it is an hour shorter to accommodate those dealing with attention deficit issues.

Special scissors and other items will enable students with motor skill challenges to safely navigate arts and crafts projects. A sensory break area will give children who feel over-stimulated a chance to unwind when they feel overwhelmed.

“We’re simplifying it,” Brader said. “Otherwise, it’s the same theme as the regular one. We want the kids to have the same experience but obviously make it so they feel comfortable and safe. The first year is always an experiment, but we want it to be impactful.

“My hope is to reach children who haven’t had a chance to experience God’s love in this way because of their differences. We’re all children of God made in His image and need to understand that and be able to fulfill our faith needs.”

Deadline for registering for the program is May 8. Registration is available online at fpchastings.org.

For information, call 402-462-5147.