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iPads, Apps, & Technology in Special Needs Ministry

Today’s guest post is from Meaghan Wall, Special Needs Coordinator for Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where she has served for the past five years.   Stonebriar currently  welcomes 80 students with special needs, many impacted by autism.


Recently our Special Needs Ministry created a new Tweeners class.  This class was designed to engage kids ages 10 – 15 with special needs and who thrive in a specialized classroom.  As an idea to help with the transition for these participants and as a bit of a pilot for our ministry, we decided to introduce the iPad in this new class.

Several of our entering “tweeners” are considered severe on the spectrum of Autism.  On the first Sunday of the new class, I checked on our volunteers and participants as the class was getting started.  I was quickly greeted with a flying chair, as one of our students was expressing his displeasure in the change and new environment.  Immediately, visions of flying iPads danced through my head.  I began to question whether or not we should pull out the iPads that day or even use them at all.  The Lord gave me a nudge and we decided to move forward.  I showed the teachers where the iPads were located in the room (they were kept put away until it was time to circle up for the teaching portion of the class).

In the meantime, I walked over and chatted with my friend who greeted me with a flying chair.  We decided that he would stay in the class but he quickly informed me that he was just going to sit by himself, close his eyes, and sleep until mom arrived.  I thought that sounded like a fine idea.  With him calmed down, I left the class, going to check on other students around the church.  Making a point to be back in the Tweeners classroom five minutes later, I slowly crept around the door to discreetly peek in the room (I didn’t want to get hit a second time by a flying chair).  To my amazement my friend was sitting at the table, in a chair, participating with the class.  This student had NEVER sat with the class before.  He’d NEVER actively taken an interest in the teaching time.  What had changed?  He had an iPad in front of him.

Here is a picture of what I saw:

As you’re reading this and looking at the picture, I’m sure you have a lot of questions.  They are probably the same questions I’ve gotten from other special needs ministry leaders over the past few months.  It is out of this experience and the resulting conversations that we have developed the workshop, How to Use Technology for Special Needs Ministry, for the 2012 Orange Conference.

This Orange Conference workshop will address the following questions:

  1. How do you keep the iPad from turning into being a babysitter?
  2. What teaching materials do you use in your special needs environments?
  3. What secular apps do you use as part of your Bible teaching?
  4. What Bible related apps work well in special needs settings?
  5. What educational apps have you found useful in your ministry?
  6. What apps have provided the greatest help to your volunteers?
  7. What types of iPads do you use in the ministry?
  8. How do you protect the iPads in this type of environment?

And we’d love to hear how iPads have worked in your ministry!   Come prepared to both learn and share as we explore new ways to communicate God’s word to students and families impacted by special needs.

~ Meaghan Wall, Special Needs Coordinator for Stonebriar Community Church (Frisco, Texas)


To see descriptions for all OC12 special needs ministry workshops click here.  Be sure to register for your desired workshops as the space is limited.  Also, we will be hosting an informal special needs networking hour during the conference where Meaghan will be participating and other special needs ministry leaders will be answering questions.  Stay tuned to The Inclusive Church’s Blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed for updates on the OC12 track and networking hour.  For any questions about the special needs ministry track, email amy@theinclusivechurch.com.

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Amy Fenton Lee is a writer and speaker focused on helping churches successfully include children with special needs. She is a regular contributor to children’s ministry publications and a variety of other Christian and secular magazines. Amy is a passionate children’s ministry volunteer and the daughter of a church senior pastor. Amy is a frequent speaker at children’s ministry conferences. Amy blogs about special needs inclusion at The Inclusive Church.