Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

Posts tagged ‘#learningdisabilities’

People, Puppets and Praise – Day 3

Today I am going to let the photos show you what a fun day we had.  In the morning we had a group from Kendal join us.  They brought a drum and a guitar and lots of enthusiasm too. We continued to learn about Elisha and Naaman, through drama and had a great telling of the ten lepers story from Janet (who is a person who tells stories really well!)

In the afternoon I ran the puppet workshop and around 36 people turned up! We learned some basic principles of puppetry such as keeping your puppet looking at it’s audience, how to do different movements and emotions.  Then we put on some praise songs and put it all into practice.  I’m going to let the photos tell the story…Puppet Workshop wed 22.7 (11)

The two types of puppet we used.

‘Talking Puppets’ and ‘Dancing Puppets’ Me and Karen the signer.

Puppet Workshop wed 22.7 (17)

Two girls holding puppets.

Sio and Frazz my two assistants and our performance to the group.

Puppet Workshop wed 22.7 (82)

The guests having a go.

The guests having a go.

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More guests having a go with the puppets

More guests having a go

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All the room was full of people using puppets

What a great workshop we had. Everyone engrossed in activity.

Hope you enjoyed our pictures.

I’d love to recommend a couple of websites / resources for learning how to use puppets. This book by Amy Robinson with accompanying DVD is brilliant to teach anyone about puppeteering and One Way UK do courses and sell puppets (although puppets can be bought anywhere of course.)

Recommended book by Amy Robinson

Recommended book by Amy Robinson


5 things to learn from the Parables


Singing and Signing "Come and join the celebration".

Singing and Signing “Come and join the celebration”.

The Good News Group’s Christmas service was amazing! We had lots of visitors and the members told the story of Jesus’s birth together, everyone doing their part so well. We were blessed to have the minister from our sister church at Buckshaw village, Who did a great talk linking it all together with the message that Jesus the baby grew to be the man who died for us on the cross….You should have been there!

This term we head back into the New Testament and are going to look at some parables we haven’t covered before, except one. As always we have chosen a main point for each session and all our teaching is about who Jesus is and why he came.

Jesus often used parables in his teaching. He taught them in a way which  people of the day could understand. Jesus used terms and pictures which his hearers would have been familiar with. His hearers would often be captivated by the parables and would then discover that they had been about themselves. So they are just as relevant to us today because they both reveal and conceal truths about God and ourselves. There are 5 sessions so, we are going to look at 5 parables. They are, THE SOWER, THE WICKED TENANTS, THE GOOD SAMARITAN, THE WEEDS, THE WEDDING FEAST.

Parables can be tricky for those of our group who only understand things literally. We also have members who can understand the meaning and will tell us what they think about it. By keeping things simple and direct, we are hoping that all our members and carers can understand the gospel. We want them to know they have a choice and that being accepted by God is as simple as accepting and believing his Son.  We will be using our usual communication approaches such as clear explanation, short sentences, repetition of key phrases, slower pacing, sensory engagement, signing and drama or puppets – not all at once of course!  So our 5 points are:

parable of the sower

  1. Jan 14th The Parable of the Sower (Mt 13:3-23)  Main Teaching Point: People treat the Good News of Jesus in different ways. 
  2. Jan21st The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mt 21:33-41)   Main Teaching Point : We can’t share in God’s promises unless we obey Him.
  3. Jan 28th The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:30-37)   Main Teaching Point : Our love for God is shown by how we treat each other.
  4. Feb 4th The Parable of the Weeds (Mt 13:24-30 & 36-43)  Main Teaching Point : God will, one day separate the people of the world. 
  5. Feb 11th The Parable of the Wedding Feast (Mt 22:2-14)   Main Teaching Point : It’s foolish to refuse God’s invitation.

We are looking forward to this term and can’t wait to see our members after the 3 week break.


On February 6th -8th I’m travelling all the way down to Eastbourne to speak about ways to make Bible stories and worship more accessible for children with disabilities.  This is at the kind invitation of Kay Morgan-Gurr and Mark Arnold who run the Additional Needs Alliance (join their page on Facebook – it’s great).  I’ve never seen my photo online as a conference speaker before and it all seems quite surreal – but I’m looking forward to the adventure (no least the actual travelling, and praying for no snow or delays!)  – if you are there and have read my blog – please do come and say hello!

God Bless you




In the UK we have been slowly breaking down the barriers to including people with disabilities.  I remember as a student visiting a large institution called Calderstones – a residential hospital for adults with learning disabilities. I cried all the way home. That was in the 80s.

Now the old hospitals have closed down and we have care in the community.  Whereas there are horrible stories like Winterbourne to contend with, there are also many successful and wonderful care organisations enabling people with learning disabilities live and be included in our communities. We have legislation and funding that enable people with LD to have some control over their lives and make decisions for themselves.

There is still a looooooooooong way to go. It is easier, however, to complain about what is not being done than join in and do something about it…  That is why I support organisations like Prospects ( and Liveability ( who are doing something and are Christian organisations supporting churches to become more inclusive.

This of course is something very close to my heart. Our little group for adults with LD is growing and challenging us all to address some of the barriers to regular church services. They like their group and their teaching, but there are only a few of our members that attend regular services too.  I am beginning to examine the reasons for this with a student who is writing a dissertation, here is one…


Our church is open to growing and learning and doing what it can to include ALL people. It doesn’t happen immediately and despite an old building, accessibility is always on the agenda of that particular committee.  But it’s not only physical accessibility that is a barrier. In a way that is the easiest thing to deal with.

No…it’s the hidden barriers we must examine…like language, for example.

As soon as you walk through the door in many places of worship there may be a warm welcome and then a set of notices and/or a hymn book is thrust into our hands. But what if you can’t read?

We read the Bible…it’s a big book with small writing and lots of it. But what if you can’t read?

We sing songs from sheets, books or screens. But what if you can’t read?

There are posters about events and meetings, prayer letters, newsletters, gospel tracts. But what if you can’t read?

At our group we use puppets, pictures, drama and a symbol programme called Communicate in Print ( to help our slow and non readers access the Bible, song words and notices. It is a challenge to all churches to examine how to make regular church this accessible.

Are we up to it? Shall we ask the people with LD themselves what makes church good for them? Shall we start a journey together and not be  afraid of trying things, learning together from our successes and failures and building a church fit for God’s family?

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