Just as the Lord created us all with unique gifts and talents, He also created us with brains that learn differently. Sunday school teachers and other church workers want to help all the children in their ministry, but they may find it challenging to effectively teach dyslexic children. The good news is that God has equipped us with various tools to make biblical knowledge accessible for all.
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that is neurological in origin, in which there is a disconnect between the auditory, visual, and kinesthetic (physical) areas of the brain for learning. Children with dyslexia often struggle to match letters to sounds and will experience challenges in recognizing the sounds that make up words, then breaking words down into component sounds and decoding (reading) those sounds. Imagine the difficulty understanding and organizing the sequence of a group of words like the written Bible!
Students with dyslexia are often the most successful with multi-sensory, structured literacy methods of learning. Multi-sensory learning incorporates auditory, visual, and kinesthetic modes of communicating information to connect these areas of the brain. So, activities that engage the senses help dyslexic children learn as much as possible.
It’s important to note that dyslexia does not affect a child’s general intelligence, so teaching material does not have to be simplified, just presented in an alternate way. Methods of teaching the Bible to dyslexic students are still beneficial for typical learners, so the whole Sunday school class can benefit from resources designed for dyslexic learners.
Those experiencing dyslexia find reading to be frustrating, and it can be heartbreaking to see a child (or adult) who is unable to connect with his or her Creator through the most valuable resource the Lord gave us to navigate this life, the Bible.
Fortunately, there are a growing number of resources that help make the Bible digestible and enjoyable for dyslexic learners. One of those is The Video Bible, which is a ministry that is making an illustrated Bible available cover-to-cover in audiovisual format. This provides a form of the multi-sensory instruction described above, as it involves two modes of learning. Also, flannel board Bible stories introduce the sense of touch into teaching and provide an engaging way to help children absorb and physically interact with biblical concepts. For those who would still like a hard-copy book, The Action Bible is a graphic novel-style version of the Bible that provides illustrations to bring every passage to life.
Students with dyslexia typically struggle to form mental pictures of what they are reading, because they have trouble comprehending, so video or flannel board or graphic novels are a great source of picture reinforcement of the text. Resources like these allow the Sunday school teacher to meet children where they are. The complexities of the Bible can often be difficult even for confident readers to understand, and multi-sensory instruction takes away one of the barriers some learners encounter.
A good Sunday school teacher wants to push students toward experiencing the riches and depth of the Word of God. Having a better understanding of dyslexia, knowing the individual needs of each student, and growing in patience in one’s teaching will enhance the classroom experience and deepen the students’ faith.