This post is a review of Katie Wetherbee and Jolene Philo’s Every Child Welcome: A Ministry Handbook for Including Kids with Special Needs. I received a complimentary review copy, but knew there would be tremendous value in learning more about inclusion of children with special needs in our communities. The opinion expressed in this review is fully my own, and the link included to purchase the book is my affiliate link through Amazon. If you choose to purchase through this link, I receive a small commission, but never at an additional cost to you. I thank you for supporting this site in this way. This book is written from a Christian worldview.
Parents of children with special needs often struggle with the acceptance and inclusion of their children in community settings. Some places parents have expressed this difficulty is in schools, daycares, camps, church, and youth groups. In short: ministries that cater to children. The reason this occurs is not because these children are not loved by leaders. It’s because there is little knowledge on how to plan for and welcome children who come with a unique set of needs.
Katie Wetherbee and Jolene Philo, both mothers of children with special needs, have authored the book Every Child Welcome: A Ministry Handbook for Including Kids with Special Needs to guide leaders and volunteers to create a loving community environment for all children.
The book is written as an analogy of a host/hostess receiving guests for a dinner party. Just as you would plan the party, set the table, serve appetizers, a main dish, a side dish, treats, and then clean-up after the event, so would a leader prepare a space and warmly greet children to the gathering. A leader would have learning strategies in hand, create a positive classroom culture, teach biblical truths, enhance learning, teach children to serve, and then, successfully wrap-up the activities once the session is over.
The book is beautifully and clearly laid out with chapters offering a prayer, strategies for implementation of the suggested activities, an explanation as to why these strategies are important to address, as well as links to related resources. It is thorough and takes an inexperienced leader/teacher/parent by the hand.
I personally love that it begins with and revolves around the passage:
“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Some of my favorite strategies from the book include:
- using peer greeters (a special way to make all children feel immediately welcomed)
- using visual schedules (especially important for a child who needs step-by-step guidance)
- sponge activities (for when there is extra time which comes with the potential for a meltdown if not prepared)
- using social stories
- dealing with behavioral issues
- and so much more!
This book is wonderful for homeschoolers of children with special because it also offers strategies for academics such as reading and writing. It describes in detail some adaptive materials to use for these subjects like sequencing cards for storytelling and raised-line paper for handwriting.
The lessons offered in the book focus on a child’s strengths rather than his difficulties. This philosophy alone was enough to sell me on the approach described in this book. The authors clearly have compassion for this group of children and it’s obvious in the strategies they offer that they not only have the knowledge but the experience to back them up.
Who can benefit from this book
As a homeschooling parent, I appreciate this book as a resource guide for planning group activities with other children within our home (including siblings), but it can also be helpful for:
- rehabilitation centers running small group therapies
- summer camps
- youth groups
- homeschool coops
This book touches on everything a leader/teacher/parent needs to know about working with and including a child with learning, behavioral, and physical disabilities. I am thrilled to own a copy as it will be an invaluable resource for me for years to come.
Jolene Philo is daughter of a disabled father, and she parented a child with special needs. She’s a former educator with 25 years of public school experience. Her books related to special needs include the Different Dream series and The Caregiver’s Notebook. Her blog,www.DifferentDream.com, offers practical resources and spiritual encouragement for caregivers. She also a guest blogger for Not Alone at www.specialneedsparenting.net and Friendship Circle of Michigan at www.friendshipcircle.org. Jolene speaks frequently at special needs and foster care conferences around the country and conducts special needs ministry training workshops for churches. She and and her husband Hiram live in Boone. They are parents of two married children and grandparents to one adorable toddler, with two more babies on the way. You can connect with Jolene on Facebook (@A Different Dream for My Child), (Twitter @jolenephilo), Pinterest (JolenePhilo), LinkedIn ( Jolene Philo), and at her websites, www.DifferentDream.com and www.JolenePhilo.com.
Katie Wetherbee completed her undergraduate work at Vanderbilt University, where she majored in Special Education and Human & Organizational Development. Katie began her teaching career in the Washington, DC area at a public school. Since then, she has taught in a variety of settings, including a community college, a psychiatric hospital day school and a learning center. Katie holds a master’s degree in education from Hood College, where she served on the adjunct faculty for the Reading Specialist program. Her own experience as a mother to a child with special needs, along with her teaching background, gives Katie a unique perspective on advocacy. Additionally, Katie is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in publications such as Nashville Magazine, Northeast Ohio Family, and HeartShapers. She served as the education columnist for Currents News in Northeast Ohio for two years. You can find Katie on Twitter (@KatieWetherbee) and at her website Diving for Pearls.