Making VBS Work For Everyone, Penny Rogers blog entry:
The volunteer disability ministry blog for Bethlehem Baptist Church:
From a Lenten devotional
Blog Entry: All Those Who Suffer in Body, Mind, or Spirit
Web site: Finding God in Autism
Letter from a Boise mom to her pastor(used with permission):
I want to brag about our church, and I thought, perhaps, you wouldn't mind.
We moved to Boise in the fall of 2007. In January, a neighbor invited us to Vineyard, and it was the first church we'd visited here that felt like home. We'd been at our previous church for over 20 years, so that
was significant as we were still grieving the loss. It was also significant because we have a son with autism. We are an "extra grace required" family.
There are so many challenges for an ASD kid. Like being color-blind, they lack emotional/social intelligence. They can't "read" us. Most kids on the spectrum have sensory issues -- to sound, light, touch, motion. Many have visual and auditory processing issues. Some are cognitively delayed. Some cannot communicate at all. Some have other health problems -- allergies, seizures, headaches. Ordinary life is overwhelming for these little people. Many of their aberrant behaviors are simply coping mechanisms. They perceive chaos, so they seek predictability in their world.
Joshua's autism is relatively mild, yet I can feel him bracing himself as we walk from the parking lot to the buildings. He distracts himself with a chant or a song. Counting cars. Fixing his shoe. We get to the door. First, a complete stranger greets us. Does he have to say something back? Then we walk in, and the scene completely changes. He lets off one little screech from the pressure. People glance, and he regulates himself. ("no screaming. break it.") We walk the gauntlet of Heritage hall. There's an enormous number of people, all talking at once. The sound bounces all around, people dart this way and that, or stop in little clumps. It's an obstacle course just to go anywhere. But we do. And we arrive arrive in the children's wing. Another
threshold. Light, sound, everything shifts. Then we wait in line to check in. No one knows how long we will wait. Again, the room is full of people talking, standing, walking, kids wiggling. Then we get our name-stickers, and go to class. For many kids on the spectrum, this would already be too much. But he loves to come to church. He's my hero.
Our son has always been welcomed in children's ministries. He's allowed to hang out in classes below his chronological age. Sometimes he participates, sometimes he does his own thing. If he takes off his shoes (sensory issues) they tolerate it. Some of the teachers even smile and tell me he's a joy! He loves being there. He loves being around other kids, even if he doesn't know what to do with them. He will memorize everyone's names, or attempt to. He gets to sing. He gets to color. He feels like he belongs. Sometimes there are issues, but we have never felt unwelcome. We are loved. But there's more...
Last week, a classmate had a birthday. The mom wanted to bring cupcakes. Actually -- frosted muffins, I believe. She called the church to ask if anyone had food allergies. Joshua is gluten (wheat) free. So she actually took it upon herself to make a batch of gluten free muffins, with home-made frosting, so that EVERYONE could participate in this party. Which meant my little boy. I'm choking up as I type. We were floored. I don't even know who it was. We heard this second-hand from the Sunday school teacher.
I know many families around the country with special needs kids who cannot even go to church, let alone get involved in activities or ministry. Either the programs are inflexible, they experience judgment from others when their kids act out (including pastors and staff) or there simply is no place where their kids can go without causing too many distractions or trouble. Some parents tag-team, taking the rest of the family in shifts. Some simply give up. There's no room at the inn. We have an online group where we encourage each other, pray for each other, examine scriptures together, share each other's burdens. But it's not the same as being connected in person.
I wanted to thank you for pastoring a church that "loves people."
Hope Award: Minnesota's Christ for People leaves no one behind Alisa Harris http://www.worldmag.com/articles/15875
VBS (Boomerang Express) success story: http://chefpenny.blogspot.com/2009/07/all-aboard-boomerang-express.html
Book for children, "What is Communion?" by ~ Victoria L. Stankus, Author ~http://stores.lulu.com/mygodissobig
Church Reaches Out to Families of Special Needs Children
Insight for Living special needs ministry Also, look for Chuck Swindoll's series and blog.
Corinne Paulson generously gave me permission to share their family's decision, which gives families another option. She wrote, "God has changed my mind about the typical children and youth programs set up based on the public school system grade segregations. My 7-year-old son with high functioning autism is doing better in service with us, because it's a calmer atmosphere and he's learning to sit quietly, and participate in the various parts of the service. He is going to need this skill as an adult more than being "tolerated" and allowed to goof off in kid's church. Again, he is high functioning, so this is different from a child who can't be quiet in service. My oldest has aspergers, undiagnosed, and he, along with his siblings,is doing well in service, taking notes, participating, etc. We pulled the kidsfrom classes this past January. It was tough cuz most people didn't understand and think we are just mean and controlling. We did it cuz God told us to, andI'm glad we did."
Congregation Or Ami, Calabasas, CA: http://www.orami.org/community/specialneeds/
From Carolyn in Ohio, this article: http://www.toledodiocese-spl.org/Equal_Access_Ministry.html
Thanks to Queen Mum Amy for this one: Helping Autism Families Survive Church
Thanks to Carolyn Gammicchia for these resources:
I've spoken with Carol Race, someone who has been an active autism advocate formany years in MN, and I would ask that you include her story and what transpiredto bring about the "Project - Adam's Pew". She also offers many resources alsohere:http://project-adams-pew.org/resources.aspx
There also is a very good news story of what transpired for the Race family. Carol has actually move from the negative this has caused her family and hercommunity to try to affect change in this area. Something that is verycommendable and shows her ability for forgiveness of individuals who were notaccepting of her son.http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/Story?id=4885322
The Autism Society of Conn. has a program they've developed and utilize acrossfaiths so you may want to contact Sara Reed (888-453-4975) there to see ifthey'd be willing to share that or act as a resource for folks to contact. Theyalso promote "Guard a Kid" which is a nice way for folks to ensure their child'ssafety in many ways, not specifically designed for children on with ASD, but they have some great stuff:http://www.guard-a-kid.com/
(Thank you, Carolyn!)
Faith Inclusion Network: When autism isn't a barrier to faith and ‘Getting started’ is aim of disabilities advocates
This Dan Coulter article Autism and the Pew Lady.
"Jessica's Little Sister," by Debi Tyree Haney was written specifically for introducing autism to a childrens ministry at a church in Tennessee. Debi tells me she has a few copies left, at $10 + shipping. (I want her to convert it to an e-book and a PowerPoint presentation for use at church.)
There are several "secular" resources that are helpful that I want to mention. I recommend anything by Paula Kluth, but in particular, her books, "You're Going to Love This Kid!," and "Just Give Him The Whale!". Send a group from your church to hear Kluth speak in person.
Another expert in the area of inclusion is Richard Villa. He, like Kluth, is quite creative, and his successes in school settings can be applied in faith based settings. Send a group from your church to hear Villa speak in person.
Carol Barnier is a resource for distractible children, and she has several web sites and books. Some children need to move in order to learn, and Barnier has some great ideas for appropriate movement in learning settings. Her new book, "The Big WHAT NOW Book of Learning Styles," is one of my new favorites. Barnier's presentations to homeschool conventions are available here for purchase(search for her by surname), and, although these presentations are about homeschooling, I think they'll be helpful in worship settings, too, so, I highly recommend her presentations about teaching the distractible child and the one called, "Don't Miss the Gift In This Child".
Ross Greene, PhD's book, Lost at School, is excellent (homeschoolers, don't let the title fool you). (See my post about "Lost at School".)
Children in Sunday School classes need a bulletin just as much as adults in the sanctuary do! Visual schedules are helpful for many individuals with "invisible" disabilities like autism. Consider Boardmaker software for the church. (Some libraries own a copy to loan to patrons.) Linda Hodgdon has some free icons for visual systems on her web site.
Disability is Natural is not specifically a faith based resource, but I want to include it here. I heard Kathie Snow speak several years ago at a church, and, while she never laid a hand on me, I feel like she figuratively grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me hard. She told our group that "WE ALL BELONG". We are all human beings and we don't have to do anything else to belong. Exclusion ANYwhere is wrong, because we ALL belong. Snow is a catalyst for changing the way I think about disabilities, and she has some thought provoking articles on her web site.
Barb Newman and http://www.clcnetwork.org/: Newman is the author of two books (I own the one about autism). I've seen Barb present in person, twice, and she is fantastic! Barb has just the right words to explain autism to an audience that knows little-to-nothing about autism. Her presentations are full of hints and tips and real life examples. And she knows more than autism. Barb is the author of "Autism and Your Church", and "Helping Kids Include Kids with Disabilities". CLC Network's web site is packed with resources. Please take the time to check it out. CLC Network has produced a training DVD, a social stories template for a worship setting (you add the names and the photographs), and they will come to your church to train staff.
You'll also find Barb Newman at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship: http://www.calvin.edu/worship/stories/disability.php . This article was first published by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, http://www.calvin.edu/worship/.
"Heads Up! is a company designed to provide expert information and products for special needs children. Our items have been selected to accommodate various learning styles and strengths, regardless of curriculum used. These special needs products have been found to be especially helpful for children who are distractible or hyperactive." (That quote is from the Heads Up! web site.) Heads Up is one of my favorite resources. Request a catalog for your church. Faith based settings may be interested in seat cushions, visual timers, fidgets, just for starters.
Heads Up! owner Melinda Boring is a popular speaker at homeschool conventions. One of her topics is about modifying and adapting curriculum, and some of her tips may be helpful at church. Search for her surname, "Boring" at Rhino Technologies to purchase audio CD's of Boring's presentations. Search for "disabilities" at Rhino Technologies, you'll find yet another set of options, although I am unfamiliar with them.
Through the Roof Ministries: http://www.throughtheroofministries.org/
Kathleen Deyer Bolduc is an author and speaker who is the mom of a child with autism.
Another mom, author and speaker is Kristi Chrysler.
I've seen Bill Gaventa present in person. He is a fantastic speaker and has a gigantic heart for faith based supports. My previous post contains notes I took from his presentation. You can find him here: http://rwjms2.umdnj.edu/boggscenter/projects/Faith_Based_Supports.htm
Journey Covenant Church in Redondo Beach, California has a ministry for children with autism. I'm proud to know some wonderful people at this church, from our years in California. Contact info is available at their web site:http://www.journeycovenant.org/app/ or http://www.friendsofangels.org/
A May 30, 2009, "That All May Worship" conference featured keynote speakers Erik W Carter, author of “Including People with Disabilities into Faith Communities: A Guide for Service Providers, Families and Congregations” from Madison, Wisconsin, and Jackie Mills Fernald, Director of McLean Bible Church’s Access Ministry, the largest faith based ministry for people with disabilities in the country.
Thanks to Alexandria for this one: Local Churches Use Technology to Help the Hard of Hearing
Faith Communities and Their Inclusion of People with Disabilities: http://thechp.syr.edu/faithcom.htm
The ministry of Jack and Rebecca Sytsema, Children of Destiny: http://childrenofdestiny.org/ offers bulletin inserts for autism awareness and daily prayers sent to your e-mail inbox so that you can pray for your family or for a friend.
Interfaith Disability Connection Blog: http://www.interfaithdisability.org/blog/ Be sure to check the blogroll along the side for links to more related blogs.
A Jewish perspective from Rabbi Aaron Bergman: Treatment of disabled puts souls at stake: http://www.reecesrainbow.com/tzadikim.htm
Friendship Circle and Lifetown are absolutely incredible!
Thanks to JamBerry for this link: McLean Bible Church: http://www.mcleanbible.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=15709
The Gray Center has some resources, including a few blog entries: http://graycenter.wordpress.com/2008/01/28/autism-and-worship/
Friendship Ministries: http://www.friendship.org/
Training DVDs and trainers are available here: http://thejoyministry.org/
Godly Play is being used in some churches. A friend in Florida sent me this link.
Country music artist Tammy Vice has resources on her web site: http://www.tammyvice.com/ Go to the lower right hand corner and click on information for special needs ministry leaders and look for the pdf files with info for teachers. Vice recommended this book to me: Let All The Children Come To Me by MaLesa Breeding, Dana Hood, and Jerry Whitworth, which is a workbook for teachers that addresses attitudes and then gives some practical steps to teaching children with special needs. (Spend some time listening to Tammy sing, too!)
The Evangelical Covenant Church has recently added information related to disabilities and special needs: http://www.covchurch.org/resource-center/books/special-needs
Joni and Friends: http://www.joniandfriends.org/
First Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Michigan: http://www.fpcbirmingham.org/ Look for Celebration Station on the web site. This church presents conferences on inclusion in faith based settings, usually in the winter. You might e-mail them for information if you're interested.
"The Special Needs Ministry Handbook: A Church's Guide to Reaching Children with Disabilities and Their Families" by Amy Rapada
The ARC often has local supports. Check your local chapter. This chapter offers information about local faith based support communities on the back of it's newsletter.
I used the "University of Google" to search for "special needs ministries". Lots of hits there. Here are a few:
If you have more resouces, please send them to me and I will add them. I'll make this a post that will grow as I come across more resources.