Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

Posts tagged ‘#parenting’

So I get to speak at a couple of conferences!

No Limits.jpg

This is unashamedly a plug for the Enabling Church “No Limits” conference happening in less than 2 weeks from today – in London – so if you can come PLEASE do.

The Churches for All organisation has been set up to bring together those Christian organisations that promote inclusion and speak out as people with disability under one umbrella organisation.  To pool resources and work together is the aim, and the conference is born out of this.   But it needs supporting, people need to come so I’m asking you to please try.  And if it is successful, I and others are going to see if we can get some support and a venue to put a similar conference on up in the north of England.

I’m doing 3 workshops at the No Limits conference this time.  I’m busy planning them this week!  (Only left it this late because the Puppet Festival was first – see below!).  But I am happy that I am doing one workshop about helping teens with disabilities grow and flourish in church as they develop into adults.  The second workshop will be showing people how to tell a sensory Bible story and it WILL be interactive!  Thirdly I will be looking at behaviour management in a children and young people’s group.  Some children with challenging behaviours have additional needs, some undiagnosed but I do have a few tips and approaches that just might help.  There are lots of other workshops too as well as the Key note speeches – so do take a look (and book).  Looking forward to seeing some of you there!

The European Puppet and Creative Arts Festival

This was run by One Way UK was last weekend and along with my daughter, we presented 4 workshops over the two days.  The first was simply an introduction to autism, with some tips about how to support children, families and adults with autism.



The second was a practical session looking at different creative ways of communicating the Bible.  We split into two groups and used puppets and sensory stories to tell about Moses and the burning bush and about Jonah.

The third session was an introduction to Makaton and using signing to communicate faith words, in songs and in prayers and was enhanced by the arrival of a newly qualified Makaton tutor…thanks Linda so much for your help!!!


Finally, I led a discussion session about how inclusive are our churches.  But this being a puppet festival, we used the puppets to show how diverse our congregations are and to act out different ways we exclude people.  It was lovely to finish this session with a prayer time – using our prayer tree and symbols to show how we try to include everyone in our group of adults with learning disabilities.


Thanks One Way Uk!  We appreciate the new puppet skills we also learned and I’m looking forward to seeing how we can develop some puppet activities in the Good News Group ministry.

It’s SO Wrong!


Today I was enraged.…I don’t often feel angry, furious, cross, mad, outraged, annoyed, irritated, infuriated, incensed, indignant, irate, incandescent, irascible, piqued or hot under the collar. I’m usually so calm….

But today I was talking to a fellow professional who told me about a family she worked with who had been asked to leave their church because of the disrupting behaviour of their autistic son….

My first response was to think…surely not? I asked questions, I needed to clarify, to check this second-hand information was really what had happened…and yes, the person had supported the family through that time, she was adamant.  They were devastated.

So am I.

I am a person who always tries to see every side of the situation or issue. I am the lone voice sometimes offering a perspective on the actions of others, sticking up for both sides to find common ground, offering advice to restore relationships.

I TRIED to reason what might have made a church do this to a family with a child with special needs.


But for once I failed.

I am devastated for this family who had to leave their community and network of friends and fellow believers. They were cast out, leaving them wounded and confused.

Why would a church do this? 

In my kindest moment I imagine they might have felt overwhelmed, not knowing how to meet this family’s needs. I imagine they might have exchanged cross words and fallen out?

I feel hurt, upset, enraged because as much as I love Jesus, as his church we sometimes don’t really reflect his grace to each other.  If I thought this really was an isolated event then perhaps I could explain it away and carry on just looking for the good churches who are trying to include and support those with additional needs. I am glad they are there…but I am worried there are other families and individuals with additional needs out there who have been thrown out, ostracised or made to feel that they don’t belong in church.  Made to feel unwelcome because they don’t conform, sit quietly and have needs that challenge us all to change.  How can we be brothers and sisters in Christ, God’s family,  when this happens?

Over to you:

I am scared of asking….but do you know of these things happening too?

P.S.  I am glad to report that the family have found a new and welcoming church. I pray for their hurts to be healed and for them to be restored.

Why the little things really matter.

Do any of these things bug you…I mean, REALLY bug you?

• Someone didn’t wipe up their crumbs off the kitchen counter (again).
• Someone forget to flush the toilet (again).
• Someone didn’t take the glass down to the kitchen and now it languishes on their bedroom floor with a furry coating.
• Someone left the top off the toothpaste.
• Someone didn’t switch the computer off when they had finished.
• Someone left a towel on the bathroom floor………….

Its these and a million other things that drive us mad. We nag, argue, feel frustrated and powerless.

In writing this blog I want to give tips ideas for dealing with what might seem small things. There are lots of places that might give help and support for the bigger things. You can access training, professionals, books and specialist websites that I can’t compete with.

However, sometimes I have helped friends who are parents of children with autism and Asperger’s with little things that have made a BIG difference.

In our group with adults with learning disabilities,  some of the little things make a BIG difference to them being able to access and be included in church.

Here’s a couple of examples:

1. A parent of a child with ASD was being driven to distraction over her child not being able to put his shoes on properly in the morning. It was causing them a lot of stress as she had to deal with that and get her other kids ready. Remembering that people with ASD are mostly visual learners – We took a photo of his shoes on his feet and the right way round. In the morning she gave him the photo, he copied what was on it and within a couple of weeks, could put his shoes on independently. Not life changing but a little less stress in the morning.

  1. Mikey, my friends son  (@alicecrumbs /  with DS and ASD wouldn’t put his new winter coat on.  Again, thinking visually, I  made him a book telling him HOW to put his new coat on and that he was BRILLIANT at doing it!  Imagine my delight when the next Sunday Mikey  came to church wearing his new coat!

It is amazing how just dealing with some of the little things can ease stress.

So as you revisit my blog you might find tips that can help you. If you post a comment with ideas of little things you struggle with then I can try to see if there’s any tips for that too.

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