Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

Posts tagged ‘#inclusion’

Connecting people in disability ministry in the North West

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Here it is!  we’ve arranged a meeting to draw together people who are disabled and/or involved in disability ministry in churches in our area.  Lancashire and the North West of England is quite a large area and fortunately our church is right in the centre of it all, with easy motorway, rail and bus links.  We’re hoping you readers will help us publicise this in your own networks so feel free to share on twitter, Facebook and to your friends by email.   You can access the full flyer on my website www.reachoutasc.com

The vision we have is to link with churches, charities and individuals in our area with each other.  We want to:

  • pray for each other and our ministries
  • listen to each other, give people with disabilities a voice
  • promote opportunities for people with disabilities in our churches
  • share good practice and resources
  • look at how we can support one another in the future
  • identify our training needs and develop a North West directory of expertise and trainers
  • discuss how we can reach out to other churches and support them in including children and adults with disabilities or additional needs

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I’m really exited!  The Good News Group are going to do a little presentation too as our members are keen to get involved.   Please come along if you can…

Training the Team and a building a local Network

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It’s half term….phew! Well I used to think that when I was a teacher in school.  Although when my children were growing up it always felt like a busmans holiday, I’d still be surrounded by little ones demanding very minute of my time and who wanted entertaining.  In truth, I loved those weeks where we could go and learn through visiting museums, walks and journeying to anywhere we could get to on a train.  Have-railcard-will-travel.

A break and time to be refreshed is why we keep to term times at the Good News Group. It may seem strange when none of our members go to schools any more, but we have found that the break does help us all.  Some members do get a little anxious and need to know exactly how long it will be before the group starts again,  that is easily dealt with.  We give plenty of notice and visual or written reminders and each house gets a letter reminding them of the date we return.  These measures may seem simple but are vital to our group, many of whom are cared for in community homes, with a rota of carers and everyone needs to know what is happening and when.

Another reason we take a break is to look after the team of people who volunteer every week to support and teach at the Good News Group.  The first week of each new term we have a team meeting and along with prayer, sharing a meal together and planning all the practical things that help the weekly meetings go so smoothly (well, usually they go smoothly!) we get to learn about our members and share how best to support them.

This year our team asked if they could have some training about the different conditions that our members have.  So, I have trawled through the people I know and found some that will talk to us for an hour.  I started us off with a session about autism and the next session is about deafness.  After that I have lined up talks about Down’s Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy.  I am also talking to some of our members about their conditions and asking if they’d like to tell us about it. One or two have said they would but others have given permission for me to pass on what they have told me.

I think that training is really important and helpful in any ministry with people with disabilities.  I do believe in listening to the people who we are ministering with and learning about their abilities as well as their difficulties.  It is also helpful to have a wider overview of a condition.  We’ve had training in the past from http://www.prospects.org.uk which has been great and we highly recommend it.

We are also looking at what we can access locally.  This is a project I am starting, to build up a directory of people and organisations in our area that can offer training to church groups like ours.  We are partnering with http://www.throughtheroof.org to set up a North West Disability Network to try and bring people involved in supporting people with disabilties and people who are disabled together.  We want to see how we can encourage, support, share and build good inclusive ministries in the North West of England.

If you live in this area please consider joining this Network.  Our first meeting will be on the 25th of April 2015.  I will be putting a flyer on this and other sites as soon as they are ready, and you can also get in touch with me on Twitter @includedbygrace  or on my website  www.reachoutasc.com/churches. (The links and resources from my talk in Eastbourne last weekend are on the website too)

Access issues for the disabled at church

There is a reality in many of our churches – they are just not that physically accessible.  This is the entrance to our church…

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There’s another entrance, fortunately, but to get into the building, those who come in wheelchairs have to park on the church hall car park, come through the graveyard and be pushed up a wooden ramp into the  building. (A good path, lit and smooth has been laid but it’s not much fun on a dark and rainy night…especially one like last week with hailstorms).  Once inside we have only one toilet (it is disabled friendly) and from there in the building is level, we replaced the old pews with chairs a few years ago and so wheelchair users can sit wherever they like.

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You see, the word “CAN’T” is not allowed to be a barrier to people accessing the church.  On a Wednesday meeting at the Good News Group we may have up to nine people in wheelchairs joining us.  The co-ordination and effort put in by the people themselves, the team and the carers runs like a military operation.  I only realised this term as for a short time I seemed to be ‘in charge’ of making sure everyone got OUT of the building and to the right car, taxi or lift at the end of our meeting.  I can’t wait until Bob comes back, he’s much better at the job than me!

Our building is old. It is beautiful, historical and listed.  So we can’t put a ramp in by the front steps, apparently.  We’ve had to find creative ways of meeting legislation for access and making the building accessible to all.  It seems to work…even though we are aware that without all the help from others, our members who use a wheelchair might not get into church at all.

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The problem of old, inaccessible buildings is a a reality for many churches.  We have legislation to comply with but more than that we need to do all we can to make a church easily accessible for all. I’d rather tear down and rebuild a useless building…but that’s not always possible. (we had enough complaints when we took out the pews to put chairs in!)   The alternative is to do church in another place that is accessible.

Saying we “CAN’T” isn’t an option…not because of the law, but because church is a family of all believers, not just those who can get there up the steps…

What one member thinks of the Good News Group!

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 My name is Liz and I have attended the Good News Group for nearly 3 years now after hearing about it in December 2011. I became a Christian when I was a tiny baby, my mum and dad wanted me to be christened as I was very poorly and they wanted me in the protection of Gods love.  All my family have always attended church and are devout Christians. For as long as I can remember I have joined them when they go to church and its a way of of life now for me, a life I love and cherish.    

I enjoy going to Good News Group. I like the art sessions before we say grace and eat. I especially enjoy the service in the chapel, where we sing songs and say prayers.  Also, we have a puppet show reenacting stories from the Bible which gives us a fun and visual way of learning about our Lord.  I always like to get involved in the dramas that we do.  While I have attended Good news group I have learned about the stories of Jesus in more depth. I enjoy all the stories about Jesus but the Easter story I find fascinating. The stories are always relevant in all aspects of our day to day lives, teaching us to always follow in the ways of the Lord with his wisdom.

I always get a chance to do readings at services and I’m included in the jobs rota, this includes the sound desk, saying grace and many more tasks.   We join together in the summer holidays for BBQ’s and play fun game example, welly throwing.   I’m given the choice to go on courses, days out and tea parties. My favorite is the Christmas period were we have a carol service and Christmas parties with games and prizes.

  I will look forward to many more happy times with all my new friends at Good news group and I’d recommend this group to anyone who wants to celebrate knowing  Jesus.

Liz very kindly wrote this for us. She also attends a local Torch Trust Group.  Liz is wheelchair user and visually impaired, with a faith and knowledge of the Bible that contributes greatly to our meetings.  She willingly serves and shares her gifts, prays with her heart and is such a blessing for us all.

 

Assumptions (trying not to get cross)

I’ve been wondering whether to write about Lord Freud this week. Earlier in the week a tape emerged that exposed the Conservative Minister as having said that maybe some people with learning disabilities may not be worth paying the minimum wage to. Rather than repeat what I thought, you could read what I said to Sarah Lothian, writing for Christian Today, here… http://www.christiantoday.com/article/lord.freud.and.disability.row.what.is.a.person.really.worth/41755.htm

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In this blog I am more concerned with the attitudes to people with learning disabilities within the church. Where are the people that Lord Freud refers to in our churches? Where is our example? Are they serving in church? Are they working for the church? Are they supported to work by the church? In some churches they are, but in others, attitudes are woefully outdated. We can have such low expectations.

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4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

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I and the team at the Good News Group have been speaking about what we do at various churches and Christian groups lately. We’ve loved it and had great feedback that we have helped people think about how they can include people with learning disabilities better and we have hopefully increased the expectations that they have. For each talk, at least one of our members with learning disabilities has accompanied us and contributed to the session.
I have to confess, I am frustrated and cross with some of the assumptions I have come across from different Christians in a few places this past year. One of the most annoying things is the low expectations some people have of those with learning disabilities. Or the assumption that they are all the same, or all ‘affectionate’ or all having ‘the understanding of a 3 year old’.  I have been asked if we are wasting our time trying to do Bible teaching to people who can’t even talk. It was very difficult not to give a very rude reply to that.  And yes, the person saying it was a ‘nice’ person who genuinely did not have the knowledge or experience of people with learning disabilties to see how partronising this attitude really is.

It is so important to have high expectations and then support people in achieving them. Take access to the whole Bible, for a start. Let’s not assume that adult with learning disabilities can’t understand the deeper and more complicated concepts and issues of the Bible. We just need to find a way to make it accessible for them.

I never said it would be easy, but assuming that our group CAN access the Bible has challenged us a lot. I remember one of the most engaging sets of teaching we did was based on the book of Judges. This term we are looking at some of the Names of Jesus. It was my turn this week and the theme was ‘Jesus is the Lamb of God’. Through three short talks and pictures to help show what I was talking about, we looked at the Old Testament temple sacrifices, especially the role of the sacrificial lamb. I wanted to explain the importance of the blood that had to flow so that the people’s sins could be covered, to make atonement (payment) for them.

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I wrote a little puppet drama, which everyone got involved in, where the puppet was accused of various sins and found guilty (by the members who were all part of the jury!) The puppet was sentenced to death. Everyone gasped! It was a brilliant moment as I knew then that they had engaged really well with what was happening. Suddenly Bob, one of our leaders ran up and offered to take the punishment for the puppet, because he was his father and he loved him. It was a special moment as so many of the group gasped again! Bob was led away and the puppet set free.

My final short talk was about how Jesus did this for us because we are loved so much by him.  The aim of the teaching was to help people understand how Jesus needed to die to pay for our sins and that God had shown us a picture of this in the temple sacrifices.  The Jews would understand Jesus as the Lamb of God in the light of this, and hopefully our group have a better understanding of this too.

This term we have looked at how Jesus is ‘The Son of God’, ‘The Bread of Life’, ‘The Light of the World’ and ‘The Good Shepherd’. Hopefully, as with our other series, I will collect the teaching materials together and make them available for others to use.

We are all learning from opening up the Bible and from the challenge of making it accessible to ADULTS with learning disabilities, all of whom are different, have different abilities and communication skills – but isn’t that true in all congregations?!

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If you pray, please pray for  Churches for All http://churchesforall.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/ENABLING-FLYER.pdf   as they are putting on four training days based on the Enabling Church conference they had back in June.  We are going along on Tuesday 28th Oct to do a presentation about our group and what we do.  Their plan is to put a pack of training materials together that can be used in all dioceses of the Church of England, and I’m sure other churches too.  I am really proud to be even a small part of this and am looking forward to learning from all the other contributors.  Please pray that it goes well, that people come along and fill the venue each day and that churches are transformed.  I’d love to see people who are just starting out on the journey of being more inclusive in their church there.  There’s a lot of help avaialable for those with willing hearts!

Expectations…

There’s nothing like the chance to be interviewed on the radio to make me quake in my shoes and wonder what I’m doing this for…

But it is good to stop, reflect and think about why I write this blog…and what I expect God might do with it. So my friend did a little interview with me to give me some practice….

Q1. Why did I start to write a blog?

When three of us (Bob, Gill and I) unexpectedly had to take on the leadership of the Good News Group about 3 years ago, I remember writing in my journal “please God, don’t make me do this, I can’t do it, I don’t want to do it.”  Well, it is obvious what God’s answer to that was!  But because we all felt inadequate, it made us pray…and pray…and pray.  One thing we prayed was for God to share his vision for the group with us so that we could have some idea that we we walking in the direction he wanted us to.  The word that came to us was “REACHOUT”.  And so, looking at the way the world works today, I decided to write a blog about what we do and see how it would reach out to others.

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Q2. Why is it called “includedbygrace”?

Grace is a wonderful and amazing gift of God through Jesus Christ. It is grace that accepts and loves us no matter what we have done and grace makes God’s love unchanging and undeserved.  I live in the light of that grace and so do we all.  “Included by grace” means all of us, whether society sees us as acceptable or not, and as inclusion is the focus of what we do, then the name seemed to explain it.

Q3.  What response have you had to your blog?

I expected a few people to follow and comment on the blog but I have been really pleased at how many people do read it.  It’s a thrill when I look at the STATs and see people from all over the world looking at what I have written.  I get a lot of private messages, as well as public comments,  because there are parents and individuals for who church has been really difficult, and their stories help me form what advice and issues I need to add to my blog.

Q4. How is God building this ministry’s ‘Reaching out’?

Being part of the Facebook page for the Additional Needs Alliance has complimented this blog really well and enabled us to build connections with the main Christian disabilty charities.  I now have great links with http://www.prospects.org.ukhttp://www.throughtheroof.orghttp://www.urbansaints.org , our local diocese,  http://www.careforthefamily.org.uk/Family-life/parent-support/parenting-additional-challenges/additional-needs-support,  http://www.churchesforall.org.uk and http://musingsofakidsworker.blogspot.co.uk/ .  As a group we are so encouraged and equipped by these links and love the fact that there is a great network for us all to belong to.  They are ‘Reaching out’ too!

Last year, my blog attracted an enquiry from the writer Sarah Lothian who wrote the article about us that was in this August’s Christianity magazine and locally we have been invited to share what we do and how we do it with a number of different churches and groups.  Here is just a snap shot of some of the ‘reaching out’ we have been doing…

  • Closer work with our sister church, St John’s, who run a monthly group for ALD.
  • Presentation to the Liverpool Disability Network.
  • Talk to over 60 pastoral assistants in our diocese.
  • Article in Christianity magazine.
  • Practical activities with Lancashire Spirituality Network.
  • Visit to support and encourage Kendal Propsects Group.
  • Training and support for a child with autism at a church in Preston.
  • Invited to talk about our Good News Group and inclusive church on Premier Radio (coming soon!)
  • Talks with printers / publishers to print and make our Bible teaching materials available to others.

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Q5. So what are your expectations for the future?

My husband has a saying, “expect the unexpected” and that is a great thing to keep in mind. This ministry is God’s work and we are just his servants.  I don’t want to put limits on what God wants to do, and I don’t want to impose my plans on His.  I often say how much this ministry is dependent on the fantastic team of people who are committed to serving at the Good News Group every week.  They turn up, pray faithfully and serve with love in their hearts.  (I always say that I am just the ‘gobby’ one who talks about it to everyone!)  The ministry is about including people with learning disabilties in the gospel message, changing their lives through Jesus Christ, and then giving them a place in our church family. As the Bible says; it does not depend on man’s efforts, but on God’s mercy.  So let’s watch this space….

My visit to London is now shaping up nicely.  We’ve mangaed to coordinate the Premier Radio interview, the Christian New Media conference and Award ceromony into one weekend!  I am greatly blessed with funding for my train ticket and accomodation offers and am very grateful to those who have offered and given. All I need to do now is practice my humble acceptance or gracious in defeat face for the award night….hope I don’t cry either way..LOL!

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Let’s help one another…

After all the excitement of being one of the finalists of the ‘Most Insipring Leadership Blog’ – http://www.newmediacentreofexcellence.org.uk/cnmac/awards/shortlist – I read all the other blogs in the category and there are some great and varied fellow finalists.  Blessings to everyone whether we win or not!!!

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But now I have calmed down and it is business as usual…

Reaching out to other churches has been in my heart and prayers for some time, hence this blog was started and I have worked hard to make links with others who are like minded.  One opportunity I had recently was to work with a church in Preston to help them overcome some of the difficulties the were having.  A child with autism who I used to teach goes there with her mum and for 4 years has been settled and well supported. Recently she has been getting more inquistive, less settled and occasionally hitting out at those who are helping her.

This may be something that others have experienced too.  As a child grows older we can often find that they want to spread their wings and the things that helped them when they were younger are no longer effective. Frustrated at being told ‘no’ or unable to communicate what they do want can cause some children with autism to hit out and become upset or have meltdowns.  Their sensory sensitivities might change and so some environments may become intolerable where previously they were not (and visa versa).

Fortunatley I used to teach this child and knew them and their mum reasonably well.  But it was clear that although the congregation were very supportive, the strain of not knowing what to do and the risk of being hurt was causing stress to build up for the child, between the people who were supporting the child and the for the mum.  Knowing me and that I had offered to help if they needed it, has enabled us to deal with this situation and make it better.  Just by doing something early on, before it got to a point where the church situation broke down for the family – and all the reprocusions that brings, we can see a positive way foraward for the child and everyone who loves and cares for them.  People do leave churches, people do feel hurt and let down, people feel unable to cope – just for the want of someone to come alongside them and help; someone who has knowledge and experience and can see the problem from all points of view.

Mark Arnold from Urban Saints has just launched a great idea to do just this…They are offering churches the chance to have someone with some knowledge and experience to visit them, observe the difficulties they might be having and suggest ideas and resources to make things work better for the child and family.   You can get more information at allinclusive@urbansaints.org – and here are their posters.

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What did I actually do with the church in Preston?  Well, they called together all the people who wanted to help and support the child, on a Sunday and in their children’s evening club.  I offered to do an hours session about autism so that we could be sure that everyone knew what it was and how it affected this particular child.  This went very well and people responded by saying how much more they understood the child and why they did things the way they did.

We then spent another hour discussing the main issues that they were having difficulty with.  I asked them to focus on 3 things that if we changed what we did, would have the most impact.  We chose

  1. Access to doors and offices.
  2. Sunday morning in the main church.
  3. The children’s club – coming in and getting alongside the other children.

As with all the work I do, we are looking at it from the child’s point of view and seeing what will change how they interact and engage with the situations to make it more positive for them and the people they are interacting with. So we came up with a red / green spot visual aid, to communicate to the child which doors could be opened and which could not  (we didn’t want to be locking doors).  I put a positive social story together to help explain this to the child.  Then we worked on making the Sunday service more structured and used the child’s special interests to build in activities that would engage her and encourage her to stay in one place.  Finally we made a plan to come alongside the child and their peers at the children’s club and teach them how to play some of the games the child had shown interest in.  This would be done slowly and enable the other children to interact positively and successfully with a limited verbal child.

I did provide the visual resources and typed up all the ideas onto a plan, which included what to do if the child did become distressed or hit out.  This was so that everyone who supports the child can be consistent.  This was with the full involvement and agreement of the child’s mum.  Parents are essential to this process and where possible the child themselves should be involved.  This child is too young BUT we sought their views by researching what they liked and enjoyed in activities and sensory experiences so that the plan was positive and inclusive of their views.

So far, the feedback has been positive and the people who are involved are trying everything out.  We agreed to meet up again after about a month of trying these things, to review and adapt things as nescessary. I would then expect the church to be able to work with the child without my continued help (unless something different needs to be taken into account).  This is important.  The help I offered is to equip the church to support the child, not to organise or do the work myself.  This is the way this support can be sustained – I am only one person, with limited time and resources and I would rather use my expertise and experience to enable others to do the job themselves.

This is why I love the Urban Saints idea and have signed up to be one of their volunteers.  It is about passing on and supporting with experiences and resources – but mainly about helping churches to build up their own expertise and be equipped to support children and young people with additional needs themsleves…

I think it would work well if we included adults with additional needs in this service too…

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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From Noah to Jesus

This is our puppet stage for our Noah series – thanks to Bob and Amanda for their creative work!

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At the Good News Group we want to help our members understand that the whole Bible leads us to Jesus and this term we have been studying Noah. It being a short half term of 4 sessions the story of Noah just happens to take up 4 chapters of Genesis…so that was helpful – one chapter a week!

As usual we tell each part of the story in different ways so that the wide variety of people we have coming to our group can hopefully access the story on a level that is appropriate for them. Again, pictures, Makaton, sensory experiences and objects, repetition, simple and clear verbal language, puppets and drama have been used. Here are some pictures…

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We have been through the story and not shied away from the harsh facts of people’s SIN (ignoring God) caused God to want to destroy them. I think our group are getting used to the concept of SIN (and GRACE!) as we tell the gospel through all our teaching – not to make them feel dammed – but to explain that we cannot earn our approval from God…and that wonderful glorious gift of GRACE that came through Jesus.

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Just before Easter as our teaching on the Easter story came to a close we set up a way for our members to respond to the gospel. This is not easy when we don’t know what our members understand but we trust the Holy Spirit to do His work and want to give a clear opportunity for everyone to come forward and receive Jesus as their saviour.

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We use a set of dark and white cloths. The dark cloth represents our living in darkness when our SIN means we ignore and say ‘no’ to God. Each person is offered one of these (with added visual symbols to help them remember what it means) and then invited to come to the cross and exchange it for a white cloth which represents our SINS being forgiven and forgotten. We pray with our members in small groups or individually and always respect their choice of whether to respond or not. We tell them that a Christian is someone who has said ‘YES’ to God and believed in his son Jesus.

Like all analogies this isn’t perfect, perhaps a bit messy, but it is about empowering our members (and their carers) to make a decision about whether they want to be a Jesus follower or not. We cannot make that decision for them but are endevouring to present the Gospel in a way that they can understand and respond to if they wish.  (And many of them have…)

 

Writing Social Stories™ Part 3

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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.)

 

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