TIPS FOR NEW VOLUNTEERS
Use this tip sheet in leadership training and give it to every new recruited volunteer including mentors in typical classrooms. Personalize tips to fit your own program.
Safety and personal relationships are of prime importance with students with special needs.
Courtesy and Physical Safety
1. Be open and loving, but wait for the kind of hug or touch that is comfortable with individual students.
2. Use no candles or actual cooking with heat. This is counter to our student’s home training. Candle ambience can be created using a scented, lighted jar made from Christmas tree white lights. Cooking can be done with an electric skillet and a leader doing the cooking.
3. Be careful about humor. Our students are very sensitive and sometimes misunderstand humor directed AT them. After a couple of sessions or hanging out with them, you will know their fun. You will also find yourself laughing at their non-joke jokes.
4. If someone at your table or event talks compulsively on and on delaying the group, an aide or buddy can engage them softly in private conversation so the group can move on.
5. Allow no one to touch you inappropriately at any time. If you see one student touching another inappropriately, intervene and say, “This is inappropriate behavior.”
6. Safety dictates that no ONE teacher take anyone to the bathroom or to a separate room. Always ask for a second person to be present. This protects everyone. Most students do not need bathroom help, but they may need to be accompanied down the hall to a restroom. If a student makes bathroom noises when he returns from the restroom, it is best to ignore the noise.
7. Parents must pick up students inside the church. No one is released alone or taken to the parking lot by a leader.
The Fellowship of Eating
8. Be prompt, when possible, in arriving at the dining room for church fellowship meals. Some students need a leader’s help getting through the serving line, and a few need help with cutting food. Some students will have eating restrictions and insulin while others may need to be fed.
9. Make food buddies available to carry food, cut meat and help in any way. Get information from parents if actual feeding is needed or food restrictions are necessary. Familiarity and trust are important, so assign a specific buddy or mentor to help with feeding or supervise a person with food restrictions.
10. Birthday and other celebrations with desserts mean separate, sugar-free options for many students.
11. Students receive only one serving of food and are to remain seated at their original tables.
12. Leaders try to situate themselves at separate tables in the dining room. This is not a time for personal visits at other tables; we are there to interact with students and encourage them to interact with each other. Some students have eating compulsions, and need discipline in getting only one serving and in not eating other person’s food.
12. Make food scholarships available for teachers and students. The leader will be observant and will keep information private.