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Autism and Your Church: Nurturing the Spiritual Growth of People with Autism Spectrum Disorder Paperback – Jul 14 2011
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The only thing I would note is section 5, "An Action Plan". It has been my experience that many small churches (and even some bigger ones) can get intimidated by the idea that a whole program or ministry needs to be developed to effectively include people with autism. While this may be needed eventually, many smaller churches need to figure things out for just one individual member with ASD. I always urge people at the churches I have spoken with, to start with the individual and do not worry about being a big organized ministry. Use strategies like the ones described in Autism and your Church to help them be included and see where that leads. In many cases, word might spread about your success, (this has happened at my church) and others may join the church who need similar support. I have just seen too many churches freeze at the outset because they are convinced they need to start a program or ministry instead of meeting the needs of the one indiviual that have in there midst at the present.
This book is definitely a must have resource for any church, big or small working to include people with ASD as full and active participants in their faith community.
Below is breakdown and brief description for each section of the book:
Introduction - This overview provides a number of valuable pointers for a church team that wants to more effectively minister to and with individuals impacted by autism. This section could be especially useful for developing opening words at a volunteer equipping event for the children's ministry and/or special needs ministry teams.
Section 1: God's Handiwork - The framework for the book and for how to view disability inclusion is established. Again, wonderful ideas and analogies are provided to help every lay leader inside the ministry.
Section 2: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) - The definition, explanation, and examples offered in this eight-page section of the book are worth the purchase price alone. I have learned (the hard way) that trying to provide a definition of autism can be received offensively without a careful choice of words. Barb does a beautiful job of respectfully and candidly explaining the ASD diagnosis in laymen's terms. Barb also weaves in stories of how differences attributable to ASD may show up in the church setting.
Section 3: 10 Strategies for Including Individuals with ASD - This 50-page section of the book is the meat of the resource. Every page is packed with information valuable to lay leaders and staff members called to help anyone with autism (or any learning difference!) spiritually advance.
Some pointers in this section are general, such as suggestions for word choices in ministry literature (e.g. use the word "survey" to name the document used to solicit valuable information from parents about their child and their specific needs.) Other ideas apply directly to the ministry environment and can help both the individual and the leader-volunteer experience success. In this section the author tackles issues such as:
* disclosure vs. privacy
* adjusting an environment to match an individual's sensory needs
* understanding the sometimes unconventional communication of a person with ASD
* the value of preparing an individual for change and establishing routine (schedules)
* using varying types and means for communication
* ideas for how to compose information stories to prepare an individual for a new social situation
Section 4: Behavior Management - Including Individuals with Difficult Behaviors - Most likely every church in America could benefit from the ideas offered in this short but power-packed section. So many of the suggestions can apply to children of all abilities but whom may have a variety of needs and life issues.
Section 5: An Action Plan - A step-by-step list is offered for a church in the early stages of developing or growing a special needs ministry.
Reproducible Resources - 17 forms and documents are provided where a church could copy or modify any of these valuable documents for their own ministry. Included in this section are participant questionnaires, informational stories/narratives, permission - authorization documents, and an sample explanatory letter to typical families.
Recommended Resources - Eight organizations are named and described that offer different products or services from which a church could benefit.
My concluding thoughts: This book is a wonderful, practical resource for every church. This 125-page "manual" is an easy read and provides a great reference tool for special needs and children's ministry leaders. The content of the book was developed to support both children and adults with ASD. Also, it is a great credit to both the author and the publisher that the resource translates well across many denominations, theological persuasions, and faith leanings. The book is full of concrete, easy ideas that can be implemented immediately in ministry environments everywhere. If I were leading a church's special needs ministry, I would provide key ministry servants a copy of this book.
Amy Fenton Lee
[...] ~ Helping Churches Successfully Include Children with Special Needs
Here is a glimpse at that review:
By providing helpful tips on understanding children, youth and adults with ASD, this book focuses on how important it is to see each person as a unique individual created by God. Autism and Your Church offers advice on the administrative side of a program as well as specific suggestions on managing behavior challenges and finding strengths in individuals with ASD. It also offers personal glimpses into real scenarios to help you learn from them as well as see how autism presents differently for each individual. Having the reproducible samples in the last chapter that can easily be used and/or modified to meet your church's needs is extremely handy.
I found this book to be a terrific resource for any church who is striving to welcome families impacted by autism with open arms.
- Sue Cassel, Anabaptist Disabilities Network (ADNet); author of "A Journey of Hope: A Spiritual Path Toward Hope and Joy in Caring for Your Child with Special Needs."