Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

Posts tagged ‘#ASC’

A great resource bank

website   Me and a friend explaining the Bible to adults with learning disabilities

Welcome to my website – please take a look.  The information and resources I share on my talks about adults and children with learning disabilities in church are there and lots of other resources for autism.  each week there will be something new… bookmark it and keep taking a look.     www.reachoutasc.com/churches

If you think of something that could be added – get in touch!     What do you think?

Passionate about Autism

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Don’t ask me why…I can’t really answer that. I don’t have a child or family member with autism, and so much of the excellent research and writing about autism is done by people who are directly affected by the condition.

…but me…I just ‘get it’. I can only say it is like God has planted this seed in my heart and mind and it is growing strong and healthy, without me having a say in it at all!  If I have a calling, it is autism shaped.  If I have a ministry planned by God, then he has equipped me with the knowledge and understanding to do his will.

“Autism is a lifelong condition, which affects how a person communicates, interacts socially, and can present difficulties or differences for the person in their thinking, imagination, perception and sensitivity of their senses.

As a spectrum condition, individuals with autism will share similar difficulties; however the way in which autism will impact on the individual is unique, with no two people with the condition being exactly the same.”

I use these statements at the beginning of the training I do for schools, charities, churches and anyone who wants to hear about autism. I then break it down to explain to people what life just might be like for someone with autism in the areas of communication, social understanding, thinking and perspective, and sensory experience. Over the years I’ve known and worked with children and people with autism / Asperger’s.  I am fascinated by their perspective on the world and how the typical way others do and assume things, can cause them much confusion and anxiety.

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I also have met some deep thinking, kind, generous and amazing people with autism. I have worked with children who cannot speak and whose communication has been through their behaviour. It is true, that there is no such thing as autistic behaviour…even at the point where no challenging behaviour shocks me any more, I can see that it is all just human behaviour.

I love to explain to people that there are things they can do to make life and school better for people with autism, and in my experience it begins with knowing what autism is.  I love to see the ‘penny drop’ or the ‘lightbulb moment’ (meaning the point of really understanding that people with autism see and experience the world differently) because this leads to better relationships between teachers and their autistic pupils; parents and their autistic children; and people with their autistic friends and neighbours.

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I have some general principles that I know work when it comes to strategies. These must always be adapted for the individual and where possible INCLUDE the person with autism in the strategy.  This is not about doing something ‘to’ someone…it is about coming alongside, teaching, supporting and enabling a person to organise and mange their difficulties themselves. We need to listen to the voice, the views and the needs of each individual person with autism whilst teaching them things that enable them to be independent and stand up for themselves.  We also need to understand that inclusion is the responsibility of all of us, working together to be the unit we are (family, school class, social group, church, friends, etc).

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Some of the work that I love the most is with teenagers with autism/Aspergers in schools. I often work 1:1 or in small groups working through who they are and what autism is to them.  I often teach the child how to understand themselves, celebrate their strengths and know that everyone has weaknesses. i learn so much from them too.  I often use a book called  “I AM SPECIAL” by Peter Vermulen and recently had the pleasure of meeting him at a conference. I showed him the work I had been doing and he was very impressed.  In his email to me he said

” Thank you very much for your kind words and the very illustrative pictures. They are proof of the fact that you really understood the philosophy behind “I am Special” and that, on top of that, you are a talented, knowledgeable and creative teacher / consultant.”

and to be honest, that was such a thrill to me after years of feeling I was never good enough in the education system.

Autism is not going away.  Children and adults with autism make up at least 1% of our population and this statistic is growing as more people get diagnosed and professional realise that girls and women have different features of autism that are only just being recognised.

As a Christian, I know God invites everyone into his kingdom. Learning how to communicate well with people with autism and listen to their individual and general views of the world, I am learning to communicate the gospel much clearer too.  We have put many good communication strategies in place in our weekly group for adults with learning disabilties (some who have autism/Asperger’s) and I long to teach these to other churches too.  I think it is early days, I think I can learn a lot from others who are autistic and/or advise churches about autism too. What I bring to the table is having known hundreds of children of all different ages with autism/Asperger’s over the past 10 years, I have a wealth of experience and practical strategies that have worked to build up the skills, acceptance and postive attitiudes of the children I have worked with.  I have trained many teachers, social workers, support workers, parents and others – equipping them with knowledge and resources to make school, home and other places more accessible and successful for people with autism.  Even years later, I still get feedback when people say how they learned so much from the training and that the strategies are still working!

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I am stating facts here. Not to blow my own trumpet but to communicate that my passion for autism has a purpose in God’s Kingdom. I could ignore it, use it to make money, neglect it – but as with any passion from God – it is a gift to be nurtured, treasured and used for His will.  I am very glad I am only one of many. It shows that God loves all people and he loves me too.

I am very glad I know that. I hope you do too…

And finally, this is for my wonderful friends who love their autistic children so much…

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Writing Social Stories™ Part 2

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

ASC? What’s that?

This is the most common question I have been asked since setting up my own freelance specialist support service. At first I thought “Oh no! Maybe I should have called myself something else so people won’t be confused?”

But actually, that question has led me to have some great conversations with people.  I have been able to tell them about Autism Spectrum CONDITION, (ASC) and why I have chosen to use this definition over the word ‘disorder’ or even ‘disability’.  I was even blessed enough to then outline my service and my vision for supporting, training, advising and making resources for all kinds of organisations and individuals so that they can include and support someone on the autism spectrum in what they do.

So…here I am. Newbie business woman as from Jan 1st 2014! And here’s my logo!

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I had to think of a name to work under and choosing one is not as easy as you think.  However, I do go on the premise that simplicity is best (and the ‘Ronseal’ principle of it does what it says on the tin!) and chose REACHOUT ASC as my name.  That’s what I want to do…reach out and help people understand ASC.  And this will definitely include churches, so if you want training, help and support for your church do get in touch. There will be links, events and resources that I will post on my blog in the future so do look out for them.

Starting up on your own is a bit like stepping off a cliff and hoping someone might catch you…

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As a person who has faith in Jesus Christ, I am expecting Him to catch me and take me where he leads.  Now that is scary but gives me a real positive outlook on everything (including my car dying in the first week of business!) and tons of hope for the future. I know he will be there when things go wrong, work is slow to come in, I get lots of work and need wisdom to make decisions, say the right advice and support children and adults at very vulnerable and difficult times.  I day this because all through my Christian life (and even before this – when I didn’t realise at the time) Jesus has been faithful.  I have grown so much as a person through the most difficult times and will always trust him because he has proved so many times that he is who he says he is.

And for those of you who read A Bigger Vision wall http://wp.me/p2MVJu-a4 and Running away – God and Elijah  http://wp.me/p2MVJu-bY posts thank you for your prayers, they have helped me take this leap and realise I wasn’t running away from but to something. I really appreciate strangers who care enough to pray. God Bless you.

Good News Group News

For those who want to know – Good News Group starts back up again this Wednesday (15th January).  See main page for times and structure. https://includedbygrace.wordpress.com/the-good-news-group-2/

This term we are learning about Saul’s conversion and his life as Paul, preacher to the gentiles. We are learning how it wasn’t always easy, sometimes dangerous, often turned out very differently to what he expected and sometimes amazing.

Through all this Paul is a person we can look up to. He was humble, fiercely passionate about the gospel, always prayed for others and never gave up, no matter what happened.

I’m looking forward to learning about him too!

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