Sunday, May 31, 2009

ANOTHER Faith Based Resource

Less than 24 hours after I hit the orange "PUBLISH POST" button on my gigantic "epistle", God handed me another resource.

On a yahoo group for Christian parents of children with autism, a mom posted about a conference she'd attended yesterday called, "That All May Worship". I've asked her if she will either let me share her notes or if she will write a guest entry for my blog about the day.

In the meantime, I did a little search on the University of Google:

And look what I found!!! I found information about the conference that just happened, AND a blog for parents of kids w/ disabilities.

The keynote speakers are new to me, too; Erik 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. I'll add these to my gi-normous post of resources.

Hmmm. (Talking to self) I probably should create a separate post with nothing but resources. CHECK THE SIDE BAR OF MY BLOG FOR A LIST OF RESOURCES.



Amy said...

I, too, saw Dr. Carter speak and he is awesome! His book is very, very good.

Nicole Aponte said...

The Conference was an amazing resource! I enjoyed it thoroughly.
It can be a bit intimidating when you see what Mc Lean Bible Church in Mc Lean, VA has created and think about duplicating it at your own church. A representative from the church came to speak on ways to incorporate a Special Needs Ministry at your local church. They have a Summer Camp for Special Needs, tons of programs, tons of volunteers and even incorporate the use of Occupational Therapists, Speech and Physical Therapists as consultants for their programs.
The rep even suggested researching grants for special needs programs! Due to such a grant, her church is able to pay her for her position as an overseer and trainer. She is able to travel the country speaking on what make their program work and how others can implement such a program.

I gleaned a different perspective than I ever had about people with disabilities. I personally have a 6 yr old son with Autism and a 26 yr old sister with Down Syndrome so I have always had a sensitive heart for disabilities.

One phrase that stands out is Assume Competence. We often don't assume competence and miss out on sharing something with an individual who has a disability or we miss out on what THEY have to share with us.

Nicole Aponte said...

Inclusion was the big word of the day at the conference. Not just creating a "Special Needs" classroom at your church but finding creative ways to include chese special children into the regular classrooms with supports...visual aids, schedules, shadows, special needs Bible curriculums, music, sensory fidgets, therapy balls & mats, etc.

We tend to forget that church is another part of our lives where we can incorporate the tools we use to support our ASD children! I personally created a floating schedule for my son with Autism to be used by the Sunday School volunteers to prepare him for transitions...It was your basic Boardmaker schedule but I took pictures with my digital camera of various things that would represent the transitions they usually had...bathroom break, craft time, worship in the Barnyard room, water break, etc. and I attached velcro dots to the back and to the cardstock that had his picture on it. They could then arrange the pics in the order for the day and show him before class begun and during transitions if he had trouble adjusting, to remind him. This worked beautifully. Now he is able to transition with out it!

Nicole Aponte said...

They strongly recommended these beginner's steps to starting this kind of ministry at your own church...1-Prayer for guidance. It's God's heart that ALL would come to repentance and NONE should perish. This definitely includes the disabled & special needs! So God will give wisdom and open doors if you pray for His power and leading at your church.
2-Develop a Steering committe of dedicated and interested individuals-parents, professionals (don't be afraid to ask local organizations like TACA, Autism Society, Early Intervention, etc for help!)volunteers, etc and create a game plan of what small changes can begin with you as a team. Make sure parents are not doing all the work, they need the most respite! The parents should play more of a consulting roll.
3-Create a survey to determine the needs! This survey can be created by your team or bought or found online. There are many existing already! Find out ages, disabilities, supports needed, etc, within your church, already exisiting and talk about how the church could start by meeting those needs to better include these children. You could even hand out flyer in the surrounding community to bring in the lost, hurting or those who haven't been to church in awhile because there wasn't an ASD friendly program for their kid!
4-Develop a financial plan...offerings, find supporters, grants, people who would like to donate equipment for an OT room or sensory toys, mirrors, mats, etc.
5- TRAIN! Once volunteers have passed a background check (yes, you have to be safe these days! The disabled are the easiest targets because they can not defend themselves.), you can do an Orientation. Explain the vision of the ministry, the various kinds of special needs present in the church and what they are characterized by (Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, etc.) and the various ways to support these sensory needs, use visual aids in the class, take breaks in the OT room, use music, softer lighting, give them tasks (passing out craft materials,etc), pick a child who is a leader to shadow them, etc.

Make sure to provide new and fresh ideas through quarterly (or you decide when) Training Sessions so volunteers will be updated and constantly learning to meet the needs of these kids.

5-Give volunteers a break and rotate volunteers so no one will burn out!

This is some of what I learned at the "That All May Worship" Conference. As a mom, I found the presentations to be very inspirational and informational.
I know moms who have stopped going to church due to the lack of programs to support their ASD kids at church. I have never stopped attending church due to the lack but the thought crossed my family's mind once when we were aware of the lack and not supported by the volunteers and staff in our request for more support. We decided on our own to move my son into a class that was a grade/age lower than he is so he could be supported by his brother who is a year younger. We would explain his condition and how the teacher could support him every time we dropped him off. We even bring his own GFCF snack. The staff who resisted us at first now see how our own implemented supports have made the difference in my son and his ability to participate in a church class and flourish.

Hope this information help someone! Don't give up! We need our church community (Do not forsakethe assembly of the brethren...the Bible encourages us to gather together in faith to encourage eachother. If there aren't supports for our children, we can be the influence, the light that the church needs to consider an avenue of ministry they haven't been previously aware of.

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