Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

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Adventures in the book of Daniel.

I did say I wouldn’t be able to blog as often, and indeed it’s been a busy, busy time. However, we’ve been carrying on as we do at the Good News Group and I thought it was worth sharing about our recent Bible studies.

We have always tried to explore the Old Testament as much as the New Testament and to enable our group to understand that all the scriptures point us to Jesus. This term we decided to revisit the book of Daniel as it had been a few years since we last did it. We had six weeks and six chapters, neatly packaged into six stories. We began with the Israelites exile to Babylon and Daniel and his friend’s refusal to eat King Nebuchadnezzar’s food. Then it was the fiery furnace, followed by King Neb’s strange dream about a tree that only Daniel could interpret through God’s gifting. We had one of our Vicar’s (Duncan) coming to tell the story of The writing on the wall, and the story of Daniel in the Lion’s den. We covered three King’s reigns and saw how God brought each proud king to their knees before him. It was great to learn that God really is in charge of all who think they are in charge of this world. We were able to think about today’s rulers and pray for them, asking ourselves if we really believe that God is in control of all the world leaders today.

It was also good to think about how God rescues his people. For Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo, it was through dangerous events. He sent his angels to save them from fire and lions. God made them wise and favoured by the kings so they could keep his memory alive in a foreign country, far from their home of Israel. And eventually the kings were faced with humbling themselves before The one true God, or being humbled by him.

As always we had puppets, drama and practical engagement to help us tell these stories. We are still reading the Bible together using the widget symbols and using images from http://www.freebibleimages.com to illustrate the stories. The whole group have been engaged, excited and interested in the book of Daniel. They’ve remembered the stories and asked about what happens next.

As usual, we never ask rhetorical questions…We always get an answer! I wish Sunday church was that interactive!

Here are some photos for you to enjoy…

The writing on the wall.

King Neb having his strange dream.

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Explaining Prayer to children with Additional Needs – a book recommendation

The Rev Cathy Porter is an online friend of mine.  I’ve appreciated her wisdom and advice for a long time.  She is also a talented writer and illustrator.  Her latest book is one that I love because people with additional needs can be transformed through learning that they can pray to our Lord Jesus and God will hear them.  There’s lots of questions they have (as we all do) and this book explains things in a gentle and simple way – but not simplistic.  I’d use this with some of our adults at the Good News Group and have my own copy already. 🙂

Here it is in Cathy’s own words….

Hi, I’m Cathy. Mum of three children, 2 of whom are autistic and all of whom tend to be anxious, questioning and inquisitive. They need detail. They look for answers. I’m also ordained, and within that feel especially called to reach out to those who are unable for whatever reason to access church life, or who the church are struggling to fully include. In a way, on paper, it seems the most natural and inevitable thing that I should find myself writing – hoping to make the things of faith, the things we believe clearer. To give the church, and parents like me, some resources that aren’t yet there to feel equipped to share our faith and talk faith, and explore issues of faith together in ways that I hope will make things clear at the same time as facing those big questions and the need for accurate, detailed answers head on. In a way I hope they will be a tool a bit like social stories, but about the things of living faith.

So why ‘So many answers’? We all want answers when we ask someone a question. It is always hard for my kids to process when it is not the answer they want from me. We get the ‘you never listen to me’ comments, or the ‘you hate me, I hate you!’- I guess we can all relate to the emotional knee jerk response when we get the wrong answer, and it may as well be that we had no answer at all. In my ministry with children (and adults to be fair) I see the same knee jerk reaction about whether or not God has answered our prayers. Not helped at all by the way we say to each other in church; ‘what an answer to prayer!’ when we see an answer from God we want. I’m also aware that the emotional discomfort we feel about this part of living faith can easily hold us back from encouraging our children, or those we come alongside in ministry from praying boldly, asking God anything and being sure he will answer us. It is hard to explore and explain how we experience and feel God’s answers, and we can find ourselves holding back from the bold so we don’t have to face the difficult task of managing the emotional fall out when the answer we hope for is nowhere to be seen.

In ‘So many answers’ I open the faith-story with the voice of a child expressing their doubts that God always answers prayer, and gradually explore in a very visual way how we experience everyday answers to questions in so many and varied ways. Coming back at the en

feet Cathy.jpg

d of the story to see in God a perfect parent whose answers will always mean ‘I love you!’ whether they are yes, no, maybe or not yet.

As with my other books, at the end are some helpful Bible verses and discussion starters. And some activity pages to encourage the exploring to carry on beyond the faith-story to touch our own personal experiences, in a way drawing our experiences back into the faith-story helping us to know this is true for me too. I really hope and pray that ‘So many answers’ will be a helpful resource for many of us whether as parents of children who need to grapple with these tough questions and doubts, or in our ministry alongside others who need that clarity and honesty about the things of living faith.

You can follow my blog about faith and family life at www.clearlynurturing.wordpress.org

Top Tips for making Dyslexia Friendly Bible readings and church notices

Hello friends, it’s been a while!  I’ve been busy working and planning with little time to do much else.  Thankfully I have a guest blog for you today – all about dyslexia.

Bible

Aurora Betony is dyslexic and creates her own Bible reading sheets using images and text in her preferred version of the Bible.  She says…

I use images from it to create my own illustrated text versions of whichever Bible passage will be read out in my church each Sunday. I copy and paste the text from Bible Gateway. This lets me use my preferred translation (Contemporary English Version). I put the image on the left and the text on the right (in keeping with Easy Read practice). This lets me read the text along with complementary images. I read it through before the service, and then again when the passage is being read aloud in church.

I also find that the process of reconstructing the story (working out which bit of text goes with which picture) helps me start to learn the passage. Knowing in advance what the passage will be really helps me because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do this preparation. This is a reasonable adjustment many congregations could make, by posting a note on their website or social media.

I’m dyslexic.  Some dyslexic people find reading difficult.  However, my dyslexia doesn’t affect me much in this way – I can mostly read (decode words) accurately.  It’s taking in what I read that is the challenge for me.  So to help myself take in Bible content, I use various resources and techniques.  These are available for anyone who wishes to use them.  So I’d like to tell you about some of them here, and where you can find more.

3 resources that help me engage with the Bible

This lets me access my preferred translation (Contemporary English Version) in electronic print.

This provides images which I use along with text from Bible Gateway to create illustrated versions of Bible passages.  This lets me engage with the text and complementary pictures simultaneously.  The process of reconstructing the story (working out which bit of text goes with which picture) helps me start to learn the passage.

  • Visual recordings

Our Daily Bread Ministries: these are of passages from 1 Kings and 1 Timothy.

Bernie Quah’s: these are of passages from John’s Gospel.

Like the illustrated text versions I produce, visual recordings also present Bible passages in words and complementary pictures.  However, visual recording is quite different: the images are hand-drawn, colourful and simple and the text and images intermingle with each other.

3 techniques that help me engage with the Bible

  • Engaging with the Bible with others

– For example by contributing to the collaborative retelling of a Bible story, or by discussing Bible passages.

  • Gaining the gist of a passage before reading it in print

Visual recordings are especially useful for this as they give a visual summary of the whole passage on one page.

  • Dramatization: acting out a story, seeing it acted out by others, or reading or listening to a dramatized version

– I listen to an audio dramatization of the Contemporary English Version of the New Testament called ‘You’ve got the Time’.

– ‘The Dramatised Bible’[i] presents some passages from the Good News Bible and New International Version as a play script.  This helps me, even if I only read it myself interiorly and imagine it being read by different people.

More resources and techniques for engaging with the Bible

You can find these in a guide I’ve written, which is free to download at https://newroots.online/2017/07/31/top-tips-for-engaging-with-the-bible

Here are some endorsements of my guide

– “What a fantastic resource! It gathers lots of good, practical advice all in one place.”  Riding Lights Theatre Company

– “I LOVE this!”  Mike Breen, founder of 3 Dimensional Ministries, author

– “For people with dyslexia who find engaging with the Bible difficult, Aurora Betony offers some useful tips.”  Crown Court Church, London

Further information on dyslexia

Aurora Betony

[i] Edited by Michael Perry ISBN 978-0551017795

This is what we want to do!

All Belong

I’m excited to share this new website with you.  (click picture or sentence to go to it)

The Additional Needs Team at St Saviour’s Church Guilford have put together Bible teaching materials for children with additional needs in a website that is easy accessible.

It is just like the one I am trying to create with materials for adults with learning disabilities based on the Bible teaching plans I have collected from the Good News Group over the past 10 years.  And even more exciting is that someone else I know is making a similar website for teenagers with additional needs.  Won’t it be wonderful when we have all these resources online?  Please pray for the work still in development.

In other news – The Good News Group did their annual Carol Service and the church was full with visitors.  We hope to have one or two new members joining us from this outreach service.  We also got a Christmas card from the ArchBishop  of Canterbury which made us quite excited.  (Thanks to our Lord’s Prayer video, I think!)

This term we are trying to enable some of our group to do the talks each week.  We are teeming up together and the member who speaks is choosing their favourite Bible story for us to base the teaching on.  They will get the chance to share their faith story and tell the group what we can learn from the Bible story they have chosen.  It’s going to be a learning experience as we figure out how to enable our members to get up front and preach – but I’m really excited and hope to write about how it goes.

In March we are doing a workshop at the Blackburn Diocese Children’s work conference.  I’m taking a team of our members and we are going to show people how they can make and use a Sensory Bible Story to make the Bible accessible to children with additional needs.  We should have a great time and will need to do it twice so I’m just wondering whether to do the same story twice or two different stories?!

I hope you’ll keep in touch and that God blesses the ministry you are involved in.

Lynn x

HITACHI Digital Camera

Actors and Readers

Making disciples in people with learning disabilities.

How do we know we are making disciples in the Good News Group? For some of our members we can talk to them and they can tell us about their walk with God. For those who don’t use speech we offer them visuals to communicate with us. We can observe their actions and reactions. They only way we can do this is by getting to know them and their carers well. Carers tell us about things that happen at home, when someone put ear hands together and prayed or opened up their Picture Bible. But really, our role is not to test our members on their discipleship. Our role is to share, teach and encourage. The Holy Spirit will do God’s work in their lives. We are in this together.

But I do want to share a story with you when the Lord has encouraged all of us through one person’s testimony.

One member has been struggling with fear and despair for months and months and months. He has his own additional needs but also is a carer for other members of their very lovely family. This puts a huge burden on him and sometimes, coming to the Good News Group is the only time he has away from this. We spend time praying with and encouraging him each week and encourage him to pray at home whenever he can. So this week he came to me looking so much happier. He told me that he had been reading his Bible every day. This is amazing because only recently had he received an NIrV Accessible Bible and been able to read it himself. Then he said he had prayed and heard a voice saying “I’m going to sort this out”. He shone with joy as he explained that since then he had felt all the weight of worry had been lifted and how much happier he felt.

To have this miracle being worked out in this man’s life and seeing God speak to him in this way has to show us that it is the Holy Spirit who disciples, who does the deeper work inside the spirits of the people who come together in that group. He now wants to share his testimony and that’s our next plan. We know our group have something to say, that God Works in their lives.

Our next terms teaching is going to be led by them. We will see who volunteers and provide the means for them to communicate their faith. I wish we had more technology available as I think some of those who don’t use verbal communication could tell us much more. (There’s very little funding available in adult social care for technology to aid communication – so sad when people are usually adults for longer than when they were children). So as is our way in the Good News Group we will do all we can to push enabling and participation. The plan is to use their favourite Bible story as a springboard to enable them to talk about and share their faith.

We will start with the man who shared this week. He’s already chosen a miracle story from the Bible as his favourite. And I hope to share more of their stories on here too. You don’t need to know them or their names to know that God Works in all of us in the most wonderful ways!

News

Our annual outreach Carol Service is next week. The whole group is ready and excited. Do come and join us if you’re nearby. 😁

New Research Suggests Social Issues are Down to Neurotypicals more than Autistics

Important to think about this in church. How do we welcome people who are socially different to us and do we cause some of their social difficulties. I’m glad to say I have seen and have wonderful friendships with autistic people because it IS a two way relationship of supporting each other to understand and relate together.

Intersectional Neurodiversity

colorful-brains-560 Picture by Joan M. Mas

Autism is seen, in popular representations, largely as a social and communication disorder. Formerly framed as stemming from an autistic lack of a “social instinct”, the current dominant idea is that something is deficient or missing in autistic social cognition. Often referred to as a cognitive deficit in “empathy” or “theory of mind”, much research on autistic social issues has focused on trying to clarify and detect this inside autistic brains and minds. The search for an elusive broken “theory of mind module” or “empathy mechanism” in the brain, and its ensuing cognitive manifestations, however, has led to conflicting results – with some scientists even concluding that autistic people feel too much empathy rather than too little.

Another view is that this is not simply an individual neuro-cognitive issue, but rather a wider social problem. Against the idea that autistic people have too much or…

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A Happy, and Inclusive, Nativity.

Wouldn’t some of these idea work really well in a church Nativity 🙂

Mr Finch

As soon as children are back from half term, classes will start preparing for Christmas performances. Assemblies will turn into singing practices, boxes of robes and head-dresses will be retrieved from whatever cubby hole they’ve been hidden in since last year, CD backing tracks for ‘The Grumpy Snowman’ and ‘The Agnostic Pelican’ will be dusted off and the whole carousel will head round for its umpteenth iteration.

All of which is terrific for those children and teachers who thrive on that sort of thing. And all of which can be hard on the children who had just got into the routine of their new classes and now find it strangely changed, or for those for whom the idea of performance is intimidating.

Let’s face it. There are plenty of adults among our colleagues, friends and families who would do just about anything rather than get up and perform on stage…

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