Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Letting God build the ministry.

In January 2014 I wrote this post “ASC What’s That?”  about starting up my own business in supporting children with Autism in schools.   Part of my motivation was to get out of a stifling education system that crushed my ideas and creativity and give myself space to get involved in disability ministry more and more.  I was crushed, but not defeated; demoralised, but not without hope. I stepped out from all the pressure and condemnation into a world where all I had was a lot of ideas, buckets of enthusiasm and a need to start earning a wage very quickly.

My company – Reachout ASC

I hit the ground running and have hardly stopped for breath since.  I have learned how to actually think like a business, had a website made and am supporting nearly 20 schools regularly with over 500 people having attended training that I have delivered.  Not only to schools but family support charities, churches and a children’s work conference in sunny Eastbourne.   I was so keen to bring my ministry and work life together so that I could feel fully ‘me’ in all that I do.

I have been really encouraged by a Lou Fellingham song Build this House (listen here).  It says  “Unless you build this house, I am building it in vain.  Unless the work is yours there is nothing to be gained.”  (C) Lou Fellingham.   In any kind of job and ministry that is starting something, or moving something on, we can only build what God has planned.

Although God seems to be pressing on with things!  As well as my business growing so that I am taking on two more autism specialist teachers so that we can support more schools, I am whizzing around the county talking to Head Teachers, SENCOs, Speech and Language Therapists and teachers about our service and hopefully helping a few more children with Autism and Asperger’s have a successful time in school.   I now have a Facebook page here, full of articles and ideas about autism;  am active in the Twitter education and SEN community; (Follow me here @ReachoutASC ) and I am writing a book about supporting pupils with ASC in secondary schools.   I LOVE MY JOB!

My website! Please have a look.

My website! Please have a look.

I have always had a love of learning.  And I am learning so much that I am able to convert into action in church too.  I have set up a churches tab on my website and will continue to add new resources.

The Good News Group

We continue to run our weekly meeting for the adults with learning disabilities in our community.  We are seeing spiritual growth in so many as we let God lead us in discipling them.  We’ve had a brilliant Puppet workshop from One Way UK and a revamp of our activities during our social time (I think we were all getting a bit bored of the same things) and have just sorted a load of boxes with activities suggested by our members.  We weren’t bothered about age appropriateness when they asked for sensory toys, playdough and duplo!  It’s going to be fun for all of us to play together as adults.  We’ve also got some picture Bible’s to read, Bible colouring and some more crafts, jigsaws and games.   The group is just like I would love church to be for everyone.  Full of joy, love and freindship whatever your abiliity.   However, we have all the issues and trauma’s as any other ministry group might have and have recently had a bereavement.    We are feeling really sad about it, but we have hope in knowing that a lovely, quiet man who loved the Good News Group and liked to pray, is now with our Saviour Jesus.

One Way UK Puppet workshop

One Way UK Puppet workshop

This lady is our jigsaw whizz!

This lady is our jigsaw whizz!

Lancashire Disability Network

The Lancashire Churches Disability Network went really well.  With the support of Tim Wood from Through the Roof, we had over 40 people at our first meeting.  The buzz and enthusiasm was fantastic and we are praying once again….God build this house, or we are building it in vain.  The next meeting is in a couple of weeks and already, one church is making plans to set up their own group for adults with learning disabilities.  People want to find things out, share experiences and learn together.  I AM REALLY EXCITED AND GRATEFUL.  This group has been two years in the praying, planning and waiting.  I have learned some patience…………
I am grateful too for you who have read, shared and supported this blog.  Keep on sharing, commenting and looking where God wants you to build his house.  

We’re in Christianity Magazine!

Christianity-Magazine-August-2014-Cover_large

We are very excited. The buzz of anticipation has been growing for weeks as we knew it was going to happen! And today it did!
Back in February, Sarah Lothian, journalist and writer, travelled up to attend one of our Good News Group http://wp.me/P2MVJu-6n meetings and interviewed some of our members and serving team.
And now, in the August edition, her 1000 words about our ministry has finally appeared and we couldn’t be more pleased. You can find it here…http://www.premierchristianity.com/Current-Issue

So if you have read this and decided to investigate the link to this blog here are some of my favourite posts that I think give an overview of our passion to teach the Bible to adults with learning disabilities well, to build our members up as disciples of Jesus and contributors to the body of Christ and to deal with some of the difficult issues that this and any ministry might come across.

You can get in touch with comments and questions at includedbygrace@talktalk.net

  1.  _45233302_f238da6b-d622-47fe-9753-72aba54ab2c3I did a series of posts about the different BARRIERS people with learning disabilities can face    “Barriers” http://wp.me/s2MVJu-barriers  “Barriers 2” http://wp.me/p2MVJu-4t  “Barriers 3” http://wp.me/p2MVJu-4C  “Barriers 4”  http://wp.me/p2MVJu-4H  “Barriers 5”  http://wp.me/p2MVJu-8I
  2. IMG_0223 This lead to a couple of posts about how we can communicate well to people with learning disabilities: “A model of God’s communication” http://wp.me/p2MVJu-4U , “Explaining ‘sin'” http://wp.me/p2MVJu-8y
  3. IMG_0214 I’ve done some posts about our teaching the Bible sessions and topics.  From creation to revelation we don’t want to leave out any part of the word (although we haven’t got through all of it yet!!!!)  Judges: http://wp.me/p2MVJu-80  Creation: http://wp.me/p2MVJu-8q  Christmas: http://wp.me/p2MVJu-mb  Noah to Jesus: http://wp.me/p2MVJu-ok  Peter: http://wp.me/p2MVJu-p1
  4. MP900390083 These post cover some of the issues we’ve had to deal with such as discipling, prayer life and discord: “Washing up and a one-legged puppet”  http://wp.me/p2MVJu-bC  “Enabling PLD to be active in prayer”  http://wp.me/p2MVJu-8b  “Age-Appropriateness” http://wp.me/p2MVJu-5e   “Adult’s behaving badly”  http://wp.me/p2MVJu-mD  “Whose choice is it?” http://wp.me/p2MVJu-oP
  5. gold-panning I write a lot.  Here are some articles and stories I have written… “Life’s not fair…Ecclesiastes and Wisdom”  http://wp.me/p2MVJu-p8  “Panning for Gold and being honest with God” http://wp.me/p2MVJu-oF  and finally my short story,  “She danced for Him.”  http://wp.me/p2MVJu-m6

Do take the time to look at some of these, make comments and please do return.  We’d love comments about the article and to know about your stories of working with people with learning disabilities in church too!   We are putting together our teaching materials to publish and share with others so if you are interested in learning about these, get in touch.

God bless you all.

Rejoice in the Lord, good people!
    It is only right for good people to praise him.
Play the lyre and praise the Lord.
    Play the ten-stringed harp for him.
Sing a new song[a] to him.
    Play it well and sing it loud!
The Lord’s word is true,
    and he is faithful in everything he does.
He loves goodness and justice.
    The Lord’s faithful love fills the earth.
The Lord spoke the command, and the world was made.
    The breath from his mouth created everything in the heavens.
He gathered together the water of the sea.
    He put the ocean in its place.
Everyone on earth should fear and respect the Lord.
    All the people in the world should fear him,
because when he speaks, things happen.
    And if he says, “Stop!”—then it stops.[b]
10 The Lord can ruin every decision the nations make.
    He can spoil all their plans.
11 But the Lord’s decisions are good forever.
    His plans are good for generation after generation.
12 Great blessings belong to those who have the Lord as their God!
    He chose them to be his own special people.
13 The Lord looked down from heaven
    and saw all the people.
14 From his high throne he looked down
    at all the people living on earth.
15 He created every person’s mind,
    and he knows what each one is doing.
16 A king is not saved by the power of his army.
    A soldier does not survive by his own great strength.
17 Horses don’t really bring victory in war.
    Their strength cannot help you escape.
18 The Lord watches over his followers,
    those who wait for him to show his faithful love.
19 He saves them from death.
    He gives them strength when they are hungry.
20 So we will wait for the Lord.
    He helps us and protects us.
21 He makes us happy.
    We trust his holy name.
22 Lord, we worship you,
    so show your great love for us.

Psalm 33 – Easy English Version    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm+33&version=ERV

Panning for Gold and being honest with God.

 

Nothing, especially God, is simple.

SCBUIf someone was born with a disability; and if I believe psalm 139 about God creating us in the womb; then has God created the person with that disability or impairment?

Ummm…hard and uncomfortable question…

These past few days I have been encouraged and challenged to dare to ask God and myself the hard things I wonder about disability. The things I usually push to the back of my mind…fearful of not knowing…or not wanting to explore the deep places of God where I might find some answers and probably more questions.
It started with the Association of Christian Writers weekend at the gorgeous Scargill House in Yorkshire. Adrian and Bridet Plass along with Sheridan Voysey, encouraged and challenged us writers to ‘Pan for Gold’ in the story of our lives and of those we write about. Gold, you see, takes some patience to collect. It settles in miniscule flecks and after a lot of patient ‘panning’ to filter away the unnecessary and irrelevant.
The gold of our lives can be found when we look with patience and perseverance, carefully sifting and finding. As writers we looked at how we share our stories in memoir that can be meaningful to our audience. Sheridan Voysey shared his story and how he had brought it under a theme, of broken dreams and new beginnings. But honesty is very important. God can deal with our honesty because we bring it to him with all the repentance, confusion, emotional baggage and rawness that go with it. God loves us to come to Him as we are, not as we pretend to be.

gold-panning

My life story is inextricably linked with people with a disability. I have supported and worked in care, education and churches for a long time. I realised that I have many questions I haven’t dared to ask. Many of them are linked with those “Whopper questions” that dare to ask God ‘WHY?’ They sneak about the back of my mind threatening to make themselves know while I politely push them back and tell them…Not now!

So, here were these questions about why people are born disabled, why do they face so many obstacles, why do they suffer… and then a huge cavernous hole with devouring monsters opens up in front of me, threatening to unleash the whole caboodle of tricky questions about life, suffering, death, blessing, growth and God! Thanks Adrian…I thought they had been well-sealed away.

892AF482-0F71-46B8-81A82D8881E5F721

    And two days later I attend the Enabling Church conference of the Churches for All organisation in West Bromwich, near Birmingham. So many people, worshipping, listening, discussing and sharing together. There were signers and interpreters, Braille hymnbooks, subtitles, wheelchair users, blind, deaf, learning disabled, able-bodied and autistic people – all together with the purpose to find out how to make churches more inclusive.
And we didn’t dwell on the big questions, or did we?  Here are some of the things that made an impression on me…
Professor John Swinton started it off by saying
“There are many different ways of being a human being and encountering the world.”
He encouraged us to;
“Be a guest in the world of a person with a disability, learn from them and their lives, let them               serve and give to you.”
Haydon Spenceley, a PHD student who happens to be a wheelchair user said;
“People with disabilities have enough pain, suffering and injustice, without the church making it worse.”
Ann Memmott explained how an autistic person can be supported in church and that current research is showing maybe up to 1 in 30 people have autism. What are the statistics in your church?
Jonathan Edwards, (the Baptist Minister), challenged us to find out what the reality of the Welfare Reforms mean to people with disabilities in our congregations and communities. He said we should be speaking up for the vulnerable and speaking out for those who have no voice, or who can’t.
Finally I listened to Care for The Family’s additional needs team. They spoke about how we all long for acceptance AND for significance…therefore HOW can we identify and encourage people with learning disabilities and additional needs to develop and use their gifts in our church?

This post is not about providing answers. In fact the questions may not have any neat or simple idea or answer. I am exploring questions and challenges God has brought to me through these two experiences and praying about how they challenge us in our church. I have to ask myself –
Do I trust that God loves us, accepts us, helps us, blesses us, builds us, moulds us, disciplines us, is delighted with us and brings out the tiny flecks of gold in our lives through patient, careful ‘panning’ of the experiences, the pain, the suffering and the triumphs of our lives?

What about you, dare you ask some big questions?

Isn’t that panning for the gold?

Writing Social Stories™ Part 4 (final part)

Part 1 here: http://wp.me/p2MVJu-ng    Part 2 here: http://wp.me/p2MVJu-nj    Part 3 here: http://wp.me/p2MVJu-nv

Part 4 : How to present a Social Story™.
There are important factors to take into account when you have gathered your information and drafted a story – the age and ability of the child and how much text they can cope with.
With all ages – short sentences work best.

1. For very young or non-reading children the pictures in a story become the main access point for them into the story. You may only need one idea / sentence per page and the text becomes the script for the adult reading the story (so that you say the same thing each time you read it.)  For illustration, photos work best.  These pages would be arranged as a book so one page can be read at a time.

Going to Playgroup     going home!

2. For older children – it is better to space out the text, use pictures or symbols that support the text well.   This is where I might use symbols such as Communicate in Print from Widgit  http://www.widgit.com or Boardmaker but google and clipart, as long as they are meaningful to the child are good too.

Doctors

Spiders

3. For teens and very able children – the visuals can still be very important but they need to be appropriate. At this stage the key is to CHUNK the information – and I often use boxes around chunks of text as well as pictures to separate the paragraph.

Doing a test

 

Once you have the story written – read it and read it again. Check it sounds clear, literal and that the child has something positive to do or learn…and then you are ready for reading it to the child. Add some reference to the child’s favourite things if you can.  In fact one of my most recent successful Social Stories was based on an Arsenal player and how he kept his kit tidy in the changing room! We wanted the child to do the same and he responded straight away…he really wanted to be like his favourite player!

Introduce it when things are calm and quiet. Read it with the child in a place they can feel calm and stay still. Read it regularly and if the child is not interested try again but don’t show any anxiety and maybe link it to a favoured activity afterwards.

If you have done your research, written it carefully and written it in a form that is accessible to the child – then usually the child will engage with it. Don’t force anything. It will work if it will work. I will confess, I find them more successful with children in juniors and high school than I do with younger children but I have used them for all ages. The key is to pitch it right for the child’s interests and level of understanding.

I have had many successes with Social Stories™. From encouraging a child to reduce nose picking to helping a child deal with the death and funeral of his dad, they are extremely versatile, positive and effective resources.

Finally – here are a couple of examples of real stories that really helped.  (Due to my rubbish tech skills I haven’t added all the symbols I used to a general picture. If you were to write a similar story then you would use maybe more pictures or symbols that were meaningful to your child.)

Travelling in the car

seatbelt

When I am going somewhere, sometimes I have to travel in the car.

My mum or dad will be driving and I will sit in one of the passenger seats.

When I get into the car I will sit in my seat and fasten the seatbelt around me.

This will keep my body safe. It is good to wear a seatbelt.

I will sit in my seat with my seatbelt on until we get to where we are going and my mum or dad says

“Katy you can get out now.”

I can read my book or play on my Ipad until we get to where we are going.

It is good to be safe in the car. I will try to be quiet while my mum or dad is driving.

Then they can concentrate on driving safely and this will make them happy.

Mum and dad will be pleased with me if I try to stay quiet and calm and keep my seatbelt on.

Saying Goodbye to my Dad.

My name is_______. I am________.   I go to ___________ Primary School.

My grandad was very poorly and now he has gone to heaven. This means he is in a very good place where we can’t see him any more.

We will have a special day where my family and my dad’s friends can say goodbye to my grandad. This is called a funeral.

People will come to my house. My grandad had a lot of friends so there may be a lot of people, like at the party.

This is what will happen on that day

First

Then

Then

Finally

On this special day there will be a special box with flowers on to help us remember my grandad.   There will be a photograph of my grandad on the box.

People might feel sad and might cry. This is ok.   If I feel sad I can

If my mum is sad other people will help her. I could give her a hug. She would like that.

When the special Goodbye ceremony is finished my family will be my mum, my dad, me and my brother. We will be able to talk about my grandad but he will not be with us each day. We can remember him by looking at photos and talking about the things we did with him. This will be good and help us all feel better.

Afterwards some things will stay the same like –

Some things will be different like –

I can remember that at school I can talk to my teachers about how I am feeling. They will help me talk about what makes me sad and help me feel better.   This is really good.

 

 

 

Writing Social Stories™ Part 3

Picture6

There are four stages to writing a Social Story™
1. Identify the goal
2. Gather the information
3. Structure the sentences
4. Implement

So if we are going to identify the goal we may need to ask some important questions such as:
• What social information is the child missing or misunderstanding?
• Is there a desired change in behaviour we would like to achieve?
• Is there something we would like to teach the child?

The information we need to gather is:
• What reading level is the child and how much information can they process in one go?
• Do they have any interests that will engage and motivate them?
• What, When, Where, How, Why is the situation happening (it is so worth taking time to observe and find out the real reason why – see Carol Gray’s video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjlIYYbVIrI#t=184 for examples)

We can then structure the sentences and this is the point where everyone panics!
There are three basic sentence types and then _ more that enhance these as you write more complex Social Stories™.

The first are DESCRIPTIVE sentences – they are like the beginning of a story – they set the scene and are objective, factual and say what the situation is. Here are some examples…
• My name is Bob and I usually go to cubs on Mondays.
• On Fridays we usually go shopping.
• When my nose itches I like to pick out the bogeys and play with them in my fingers.
• In my class there are lots of children and we each have a chair to sit on.
• On Friday my granddad died. I will not see him again.

The second are PERSPECTIVE sentences – they are like the middle of the story – they explain and answer the why in terms of what other people’s perspectives might be in the situation. Here are some examples…
• Other people don’t like seeing bogeys from people’s noses.
• Some children in my class like to have gravy on their potatoes.
• If someone is hit it hurts them and they might cry.
• When someone dies people can feel very upset and might cry.

Thirdly there are DIRECTIVE sentences. Be sparing with these because they are like the end of a story, the conclusion; the way forward. They suggest rather than insist and give the child options that are appropriate for the situation (it is great when children can contribute to these).
• I can remember to blow my nose so the bogeys can go in the tissue.
• I can choose not to have gravy on my potatoes.
• When we go shopping I can take my Ipod and listen to my music while we walk around the shop.
• If I don’t want to play I can try to suggest a different game.
• If the teacher doesn’t pick me I can try to remember that I will have a turn another time.

In with all these sentences there should be AFFIRMATIVE sentences. These are confirmations, encouragements and reassurances that can be added to any of the above sentences. Here are some examples…
• It is okay / good / great / brilliant.
• That is a safe thing to do.
• You can do it.
• It is a great idea.

So this is your task for this post – here is a simple Social Story™. See if you can identify the different types of sentences.

everyone taking turn

Everybody can have a turn

My name is _______and I am in Year 3.

In my class there are lots of other children and me. Sometimes my teacher wants to choose children to do something at the front of class, choose a star of the day or give out a sticker or choose children to help her do things.  (DESCRIPTIVE) This is good. (AFFIRMATIVE)

All the children in the class like to help our teacher and be chosen by her to do one of these things.!  My teacher knows that all the children want to be chosen. She knows that I want to be chosen. (PERSPECTIVE)

I can try to be patient and wait until it is my turn. (DIRECTIVE)

The teacher likes to be fair and give all the children a chance to help her or be chosen.  This means that different children are chosen every day.  Sometimes it will be me, sometimes it will not be me but someone else. (DESCRIPTIVE)

This is ok. (AFFIRMATIVE) I can try not to be upset when I am not chosen. It is a great idea to say “well done” and smile at the children who are chosen.  (DIRECTIVE)

This is being happy for them and good manners. I like being kind to other children and they like being kind to me.  Then when it is my turn to be chosen the other children will be happy for me. (PERSPECTIVE)

I am brilliant! Well done me! (AFFIRMATIVE)

(NB. All social stories are written for an individual and personal to them. I write them with the child whenever I can. The examples in this blog have all been successful with the particular child they were written for.  I would also usually have more visual pictures or symbols but they are difficult to replicate – more about that in the next part.)

 

Writing Social Stories™ Part 2

MP900390083

So what did you think of that social story example in part 1  http://wp.me/p2MVJu-ng

Don’t hurt others at playtimes.

Rosy, you have been hurting other children at playtimes.

This is wrong. If you hurt other children they will tell the

teacher on duty and you will have to go inside and sit

outside the head teachers room. You MUST not be too

rough in the playground. It is up to the big children to

stop and check themselves from time to time to make

sure they are playing nicely. If you do this your

teacher and your mum and dad will be pleased and you

can stay at our school.

I hope you said something like this…

  • It is negative.
  • It is written in the wrong perspective “you” rather than “I”.
  • What exactly does being too rough mean?
  • It is threatening.
  • If it was taken literally – what does ”stop and check yourself” mean?
  • It says MUST – makes it easy to fail.
  • Why would you want to please the teacher after being spoken to like this?

So here is an example of the same situation written in the proper Social Story™ format…

Rosy can play nicely at playtimes

Picture1

My name is Rosy and I am in class 5 at Leafy Lane School.

We have a playtime in the morning and after we have eaten our lunch.

I like to play with the infant children at playtimes. It is good to have

friends to play with.  These are my friends in the infants.

Picture3

The children in the infants are smaller than me. This is because they

are younger and have not grown as tall as me yet.

I am a kind friend.   I like to play nice games with my friends.

Sometimes children might bump into one of their friends or hold them

tightly when they are playing together.

Picture4

People don’t like it if they are held tightly or when someone bumps

into them. They might fall or cry because they are hurt

I can try to hold someone gently when I am playing.  My friends will try to hold me gently too.

Picture6

This can help me and my friends be happy and playtimes will be fun.

Well done Rosy and her friends!

So what would you say was the difference? Think about it and I’ll explain some more in the next post.

Writing Social Stories™ Part 1

Pad of Paper & Pen

In my day job as an Autism Specialist teacher, I write a lot of Social Stories™.

Many people I come across have heard of them and have even been told by professionals they should be using them, but what never ceases to amaze me is no-one then tells them exactly what a Social Story™ is and HOW to write one.  That’s why for years I’ve been running courses to teach the how.

Carol Gray of www.thegraycenter.org invented them.  The definition on her website is…

A Social Story™ describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in a specifically defined style and format. The goal of a Social Story™ is to share accurate social information in a patient and reassuring manner that is easily understood by its audience. Half of all Social Stories™ developed should affirm something that an individual does well. Although the goal of a Story™ should never be to change the individual’s behavior, that individual’s improved understanding of events and expectations may lead to more effective responses.

There is a great video by Carol herself on You Tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjlIYYbVIrI#t=184  and her book http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-New-Social-Story-Book/dp/1935274058

Social Stories™ should be:

  • Positive and affirmative
  • Written in first person but negative behaviours in third person
  • Have illustrations that enhance the words
  • Follow the correct structure so that it is balanced right
  • Describe, give a social perspective and suggest appropriate responses or actions
  • Needs to explain things carefully so if they are read literally they are still understood.

Social Stories™ are just one strategy of many that can support children with autism to make sense of the world.  The point that they are NOT to tell a person off or change an undesired behaviour is very important. Unless they are relevant, engaging and motivating to the child then they are useless.

I have read some terrible examples in the past.  I am going to start with an example of what a Social Story™ is NOT. This is based on real examples but is an amalgamation of a few – just for illustration.

Don’t hurt others at playtimes.

               Rosy, you have been hurting   other children at playtimes.

     This is wrong. If you hurt other   children they will tell the

      teacher on duty and you will have to go   inside and sit

      outside the head teachers room. You   MUST not be too

     rough in the playground.  It is up to the big children to

                stop and check themselves   from time to time to make

       sure they are playing nicely. If you   do this your

       teacher and your mum and dad will be   pleased and you

      can stay at our school.

 

So… what would you say is wrong with this…have a think and my next post will give you some answers!

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