Here is a question received from one teacher of mentally challenged persons and it is answered by another teacher.  Thought you might like to easedrop in on the conversation.

I have a question about people with mental disabilities and learning. Would you call people with mental disabilities literate learners or oral learners or both?

Do you use lessons and teachings that are basically simplfied language, lesson handouts and take home papers that they can read and think about and discuss? Or do you use basically oral communication? I am reading that information must come to oral learners through stories, drama, song, and other similar formats.

Do you have any reference material in this area? Do you use simple versions of the Bible for those who can read or do you use a Dramatized version of the Bible they can hear being read? We are working on a one year Christian Education curriculum for people with low functioning mental disabilities. We have simplified the language to their basic level of understanding. How would you create a curriculum for oral learners?

ANSWER:  I think of there being three types of learners:

1. Auditory (what I think you are calling Oral)

2. Visual

3. Kinesthetic

These are the pathways into the brain (ears, eyes and touch). You see this play itself out in the way people spell. If you ask some people how to spell a word they sound it out (Auditory). My wife will tell me how to spell a word then want to come look at it (Visual). Yet others will need to write it themselves (Kinesthetic).

So for auditory learners hearing the Bible read is fine, but a dramatized reading of a Bible story even better. For visual learners, seeing a video of the Bible story helps. For a kinesthetic learner acting out the Bible story is helpful.

Question, if someone is a visual learner does acting out the story help? In acting out the story they cannot SEE the whole and do they miss the forest for the trees (so to speak)? I think in developing a lesson every lesson needs to address each type of learner.

The literate learner I think is what I would call a concrete learner (do not really know the term literate learner). I think this is a totally different discussion. Before the discussion is about pathways into the brain and now we are talking about the ability of the brain to process information.

I do think mentally challenged persons are concrete learners and we have to be careful to teach that way. I think it is a major problem in what I often see people do in teaching mentally challenged persons. I was at a camp last year for mentally challenged folks. They had a speaker who spoke on how God sees us. The speaker had a lot of different types of glasses. Most of them were funny goofy glasses. He was very funny. People had a good time. But I do not think they had a clue about the point he was trying to make. It was too abstract.

At Special Gathering, we use the term symbolic object lessons vs concrete object lessons. If the object we are using in an object lesson represent something else we do not use that object lesson. An object has to be what it is.

As an example – I use to have a set of chemistry tubes that I used in my sermons. I would talk about sin entering the world and pour one tube into a second tube turning the second tube black. Then I had a third tube that was red. I would talk about how Jesus came into the world and died to take away our sin. I would pour the third tube into the second tube. As the red liquid hit the black liquid it turned clear. It was really cool, but I do not think it helped anyone (but the volunteers) understand anything. It was too abstract. You have to cognitively connect one tube to Satan, one tube to people and yet a third tube to Jesus. Not only does that not help the learning process I think it harms the learning process. Just my two cents worth.