Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

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. 😁

Advertisements

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…

View original post 676 more words

Holy Spirit.png

Image from:   http://walkwithjesusonline.com/power-holy-spirit/

This song has been going through my head recently….

There is power in the name of Jesus
We believe in His name.
We have called on the name of Jesus;
We are saved! We are saved!
At His name the demons flee.
At His name captives are freed.
For there is no other name that is higher
Than Jesus!

There is power in the name of Jesus,
Like a sword in our hands.
We declare in the name of Jesus,
We shall stand! We shall stand!
At His name God’s enemies
Shall be crushed beneath our feet.
For there is no other name that is higher
Than Jesus!

Noel Richards

© 1989 Thankyou Music | CCLI: 649800

Over the years I’ve been a Christian, Jesus has done some very powerful things in my life. One of the biggest things has been the power that has given me the ability to overcome anxiety and depression.  Nothing amazing to you maybe, but life changing for me.  Jesus is the source of that power and unless I’m ‘plugged in’ through prayer, praise and reminding myself of God’s Word, I can easily drift back into my former ways.  Jesus’s power is holding me tight, but I do occasionally forget that he’s got hold of me and isn’t EVER going to let me go!

Romans 4:20-22New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’

Romans 15:12-14New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

12 And again, Isaiah says,

‘The Root of Jesse will spring up,
    one who will arise to rule over the nations;
    in him the Gentiles will hope.’[a]

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There has been some good news and developments but I got scared.  I was worried that with no funds and not much time all the dreams I feel the Lord has put on my heart will fail.

How can I forget His power and provision?  If this is God’s work – he can fund it, surely!  The answer to my prayers is that there are other people out there, who have the same heart and abilities that I don’t have who want to come on board.  God is building a team.

Since my post about writing an “Included By Grace” book things have moved on a bit.  We’re putting the blog posts into word documents so they can be edited and developed into book form.  I’ve had an exciting meeting with two Christian web developers who are full of amazing ideas to bring my dream of making our Good News Group Bible teaching materials available to others a reality.

I’m being asked to do some bits of work with my Diocese Youth section to present workshops, give advice and support churches wanting to make their Youth events accessible.  We are going to make a guide for Youth Groups so that they can use this when starting to plan events.  Thanks to BG for his enthusiasm and encouragement in developing this.

IMG_3699

This was my puppet being Samson for our sensory story – dig the hair?

In half term, I went down to Rugby to present 4 workshops at the One Way UK, European Puppet and Creative Arts Festival.  We covered autism, Sensory Bible Stories, Using Makaton and picture symbols for communication and How we teach puppet skills to adults with learning disabilities.  I had a hoot of a weekend!  I loved feeling relaxed and being able to play with sensory stories and puppets! The best part of the weekend was when three different people came to me to tell me how after listening to me last year, they had gone back to their churches and done something new that had made a huge difference to people with disabilities in their churches.  It was worth the year wait to hear such wonderful testimonies!

And I’m back to the GNG this week.  My hopes are to continue building up the abilities and opportunities for the members to share their stories, their gifts and their ideas in the group.  But more than this, I want them to have opportunities to go out into the community and share the gospel with others who have learning disabilities and those who don’t.  I want to see them preaching and teaching others about the Bible.

It will only happen if we are ‘plugged into’ the Power of Jesus’ Name.  The Holy Spirit will give us what we need.  Please join us in praying for this work.  We are inadequate, but Jesus is fully adequate and able to do more than we could ask or imagine!

Ephesians 3:20-21New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

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…

View original post 1,858 more words

 

Here’s a tough subject.  It’s one that people don’t like talking about in church.  And yet it’s one that all the rest of society is talking about non-stop.

Sex is big business.  Sex is used to sell, to control, to exploit and to harm.  Sex in this society is used as a weapon to destroy lives.  And it’s happening on the internet.  Children, young people and adults are not safe from porn, abuse, manipulation, exploitation – anywhere.  If they are on the internet, they are vulnerable. If you doubt me – read this – please.  And if you don’t doubt it – read it too.  https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/until-you-see-someone-go-through-you-cant-connect-it

And if a child, young person or adult has learning disabilities, physical disabilities, autism or other condition – it is all too easy to think that they are naive and that their naivety will protect them. Of course it won’t, they are more vulnerable to being exploited or abused than most.  And more likely NOT to receive any teaching, support or help to understand what the dangers are.

Who in church can help?

Children’s workers, Youth Workers, groups like the Good News Group and those who preach – all have a platform to help and support families and people with disabilities in this area.  Parents may be so busy doing the day to day caring that they haven’t the time or energy to face this subject as well.  Their fears will be there, however.  I’ve spoken to many parents who fear sexual abuse towards their children and adults with disabilities.

Our fears also come with the fear of not knowing what to say.  Or where to even begin.  So here are my practical tips to get you started.  So first, pray….then…

  1. Don’t put it off. Don’t think someone else will do it or the person isn’t ready for this.  Urgency is key.  But take time to plan what you are going to do and don’t think a one off session will do the job.  Little and often for a long time – that’s the best way to get the messages across and build up knowledge and trust.  Work together with one or more in a team so you are not shouldering the burden of this yourself.  Of course – make sure all your team have done the relevant Safeguarding training and ask your Safeguarding officer for help with this too.

Pray.

  1. Read and be informed. Maybe you have come across porn or been approached for sexualised photos online.  Maybe you feel embarrassed to admit it.  However, if you realise almost EVERYONE has had this experience and that the internet is pushing these images, that people who want to abuse have little or no monitoring online, then honesty will lead you to wake up to the truth of what is happening.  Read reports like the TES one I’ve linked to above and other reports from Children’s charities such as the report https://www.barnardos.org.uk/news/media_centre/Children-with-learning-disabilities-at-risk-of-sexual-exploitation/press_releases.htm?ref=108399 

Pray about what you have learned and ask the Lord for wisdom about what you can do.

  1. Talk to parents, families and people with disabilities to ask about their experiences. Make sure you provide an open and supportive forum for people to share and assure them that together. Help families talk to their children about this.

Pray about this too.

  1. Read the Bible and books that show God’s positive gift of sex. Know what sex was planned to be.  It will be important that CYP and adults know that sex is a gift from God.  Be careful of putting strict rules around it – but instead talk about permanent, safe relationships, marriage and commitment, babies and mutual pleasure.   This is something to do with your church leaders and put together a simple picture of what sex is.

Pray for wisdom, grace and understanding.

  1. We cannot ignore that some people are LGBT and people with autism, learning disabilities and other disabilities can have the same feelings. (In fact, some suggest that 30% of autistic people are LBGT).  (This is an area I am researching and do not feel qualified to give advice right now – however, Jesus is the same for everyone – do not let that be changed).

Pray about this too.  If you feel underqualified to support someone who is LGBT, then ask God to give you wisdom, grace and understanding.  Find a Christian who is also LGBT and ask them for help and advice.

  1. Remember you will never feel ready to tackle this issue. But if you have done some research and lots of praying and asked others to join you in the prayer and planning, then you just have to get on with it.  Children are growing up fast.  The internet is developing faster than anyone can keep up with.  You may start with what is good about sex and then discuss why we put boundaries around that.  It’s about good relationships, respect and safety.  To help you please read this article I wrote about teaching puberty, sex and relationships to autistic children.  http://www.reachoutasc.com/attachments/article/46/17-21_Autism%20sex.pdf

Pray.

  1. Then we must talk about what happens on the internet and why that is unsafe, abusive and dangerous. Use real stories and be prepared for children to be frightened.  It IS frightening and not talking about it will make it even more so if they think that they are not allowed to talk about it.  If the CYP or adult has learning disabilities be careful about how you communicate.  Be factual and reassuring. Use visuals and map things out on large pieces of paper.   Use colour coding to decide what is safe and what might not be.  And make sure they know who they can tell if they see something that might be harmful.

Pray.

  1. Talk about people and what makes someone trustworthy. This is hard because most abuse is done by grooming.  When people build a ‘trusting’ relationship with someone to get them ready for abuse.  Being open, talking about relationships and giving examples can help.  Tell them anyone asking for private pictures should not be given them.
  2. Pray with them about relationships that the CYP or adult will have. They may need to have carers looking after them all their lives.  How can they be safe?  Knowing that there is a regular, open conversation is one of the things that can help.

And pray, and keep talking….and pray some more.

  1. Remember we have a God who is powerful, almighty and who answers our prayers. As Christians we can easily forget that he has conquered evil and death.  Jesus is the saviour of the world.  The best defence against evil is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and to ask HIM to protect you and keep you safe.  Children, young people and adults need to know Jesus is their saviour too.  That their relationship with Jesus is the one thing that they can trust and rely on.  If we teach the gospel, build their faith and prayer life and pray with them, we can do so much to protect them, and ourselves. There may be some who cannot communicate or access the information we’d like them to know.  We might think they are innocent and we don’t want to destroy that.  But vulnerability is vulnerability.  We can communicate somethings to help them be safe.  For example, learning about privacy and consent.

This is difficult to write about and difficult to cover all that needs to be said.  I am only scratching the surface here and would be happy for people to share their wisdom in the comments.  The message has to be – open your eyes to the dangers, pray and educate our CYP and adults with disabilities so they have a voice, can say no or speak to someone when they are scared by anything that happens to them.  The worse thing to do is to think that they don’t need this, and do nothing.

God Bless and be with you. Amen. 

DSCF0124


Deep in my spirit I’m feeling very uneasy.  There’s thoughts bubbling around in my brain that I keep trying to pop, to push down into the recesses of my mind so I can get on with life ignoring them.  But bubbles rise to the top. And so do these thoughts. 

They concern judging.  Humans have ALWAYS judged each other. The constant power struggles, the instinct to belittle others so that we come out on top is innate in all of us. Just ask yourself who you are jealous of? For me it’s the people with hundreds of thousands of pounds to buy a house in the country on my favourite programme ‘Escape to the Country’.  But I criticise them too easily.  I reveal my jealousy every time I watch the programme. I’m not happy for them when they buy that lovely house in the country.  I’m finding lots of reasons why they don’t deserve it and I do. 

Judging is endemic in the church. However much we try not to, as soon as we say that who someone is, is wrong or that someone can’t because of who they are…we’ve made a judgement about their worthiness. And that’s the root of judgement that I see.  Who’s worthy and who isn’t. And logically, we fall into the trap of thinking that if some people are worthy and some are not…well then, I must make sure no one thinks I AM UNWORTHY.  So we work hard, try our best and put on a show.  We act our way to being seen as worthy.  

And boy do we act. We pretend that we’re trying to pray more. We pretend we’re trying to read our Bible every day (and don’t we feel good when we get the chance to say ‘when I did my quiet time this morning…). We pretend we’re reviewing our giving so we can be just over that 10% gold standard (so we’re better than those who aren’t giving regularly.)  We pretend that going to three evening meetings a week doesn’t hack us off and we wouldn’t rather sit veg-ing in front of the TV after a hard day at work. We pretend we must be a good and faithful servant when the umpteenth rota pings into our inbox, (well we tick the ‘serving in church’ box at least). We try not to ‘tut’ along with the church leader who says they know some people aren’t giving/serving and what a burden that puts on everyone else.  And we all know people that just wouldn’t be welcome or ‘fit in’ at our church. We probably ‘tut’ at all the dirty, poor, criminal, sinning people in the local newspaper.  Well, we wouldn’t do those things, we’re Christians aren’t we? 

You can pretend you don’t (that’s up to you) but we are constantly comparing ourselves with others. We are constantly judging whether others are as worthy as us or whether we’ll ever be as worthy as them.  We are judging using the Bible, of all things, as our justification.  We say these people or those people are not worthy because this or that is sin – and they do that thing so they are sinners.  They are judged.  

But who gave us the authority to judge others in this way. Surely we’re all sinners?   That means we are on a level playing field here. We’ll all stand before God one day and face the ultimate judgement, by the One who IS given the authority to do so.  The Bible is very clear that Jesus, the Son of God, who died on the cross and was raised to life, is the only one with the authority to judge.  

To me, it seems that we must be claiming we are Jesus if we judge. We are usurping him. We are doing what Adam and Eve did and saying we know as much as God. We don’t need him. We can do the judging and tell God who’s in and who’s out….we’ll save him the bother. 

I’m tired of all this.  I’ve listened and struggled with the churches judgement on women, LGBT, disabilities and so many other ‘unworthy’ peoples.  I never saw Jesus turn anyone away from him.   People came to him and he ministered to them.  He changed people, yes….But it came out of their relationship, their surrender to him.   It came out of his compelling kindness and compassion.  Some walked away from him.   And many of those were those who thought they were already worthy.  

I repent of my judging others. I repent of not being brave enough to write this blog before or speak up for those being judged by the church.   It was an interview with a Bishop on local radio this morning that prompted this response in me. It was a masterclass in avoiding the question.  I suddenly thought how tired I was of these games.  I surrender.  To Jesus I surrender.   He’s the one I love because he didn’t judge me, he forgave me and for all these years of being a Christian I’ve known nothing except his kindness and grace. I don’t deserve any of it.  And for certain, no-one, absolutely no-one deserves to be judged by me. 

Okay, as promised I’m going to share some of the plans that I think where those mountains left uncovered by the cloud in Keswick.  See this post if you don’t know what I mean!


There are three mountains. Each one is a project and each one will take some planning, hard work and tons of prayer and faith.  I’m going to tell you about one at a time.  I’m also going to tell you how scared I am that talking about them might leave me open to failure.  That speaking about them might mean I’ve rushed ahead and that they might not happen as I say they will. 

But “Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see” Hebrews 11 verse 1.  (I know this off by heart!) 

So….the first project is to collate all the blog posts I’ve been writing on here for the past four years.  Aided by my lovely daughter we are going to put them all into word documents and then I’m going to choose the better ones to organise into a book.  I may try to send it to a publisher for consideration but I am thinking of self publishing at the moment.  This is mainly because I’d like to use it to raise money to fund the second plan (which I’ll tell you about in the next post….yes…I’m keeping you guessing!) 

So why an includedbygrace book? 

I think that churches might like a book that discusses the issues surrounding accessibility for those with learning and other disabilities.  But in my experience, people really like a practical guide. They like real solutions, things they can do and realistic examples of how they can make a difference.  I think there’s enough of that in my posts to put a book together and if I can advertise it enough, there may be a few people who would actually buy it! 

I’ve got lists of resources and websites I can add and may ask a couple of people to add a post about particular needs, that I haven’t covered in my posts yet.  And having written three books (two autism books published this year and one on its way) then I have an understanding of how to edit and set out a book that I didn’t have before. 

In preparation I’ve set up an includedbygrace Facebook page. If you want to follow it here’s the link…  https://m.facebook.com/includedbygrace/ 

So, that’s the first mountain declared. Thanks for your support and do comment if you feel like it! 

%d bloggers like this: