Making sacred spaces and safe places for families with special needs children. Autism Awareness: How the church can be prepared. Meet the Higgins. Melanie Michaela Kelli Chris. Michaela 8 years old, 3 rd grade Autism Spectrum Disorder: Higher-functioning
Making sacred spaces and safe places for families with special needs children.
Michaela special needs children.8 years old, 3rdgradeAutism Spectrum Disorder: Higher-functioning
Hypersensitive to sounds and smells. Very energetic. Academically at grade level. “Mainstreamed” among neuro-typical children. Loves “My Little Pony” and rockets.
Melanie4 years old, developmental pre-schoolAutism Spectrum Disorder
Hyposensitive: high pain tolerance. Pre-verbal. Eating difficulties (overstuffs). Very curious and loves to bounce, figure out puzzles, use the iPad, play with dolls and “My Little Pony.”WHO ARE WE?
Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain's normal development of social and communication skills along with sensory issues.
With the May 2013 publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual, all autism disorders were merged into one umbrella diagnosis of ASD. Previously, they were recognized as distinct subtypes, including autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.What is Autism?
Meltdowns: they’re not just tantrums! 3 years of life, and affects the brain's normal development of social and communicationTypical Behaviors of a Child with Autism
Often anxious of entering 3 years of life, and affects the brain's normal development of social and communication uncontrolled or new environments
Experience worry of “judgment” from others
Worry that their children are a “burden” to others
Embarrassment when their child(ren) acts-out or experiences a meltdown around others
Sometimes feels isolatedThe “Behaviors” of Parents
Why parents of children with autism feel they can/cannot become part of a church or faith community.Stories
Ideas and resources on how to become a welcoming community of faith to special-needs families.What Can we do?
“They’ll be OK” is not reassuring!
Listen – many parents sometimes just need a friendly ear.
Oftentimes help is needed, but parents may be afraid to ask. It’s OK to ask the parent if they need help with something.Understanding
Crowded can overstimulate.spaces: special worship services (Christmas, Easter, large rooms,lobbies, etc.)
Routine: provide a “regular” seat or location for families, if requested.
Routine: changes in worship orders can cause anxiety
Using props (especially noisy!) during children’s moments/worships.Comfortable Spaces: Worship
A simple heads-up on changes in worship, decorations, or the use of louder or unusual sounds can make the world of difference in how children with autism react to certain situation and stimuli.Comfortable Spaces: Worship
This prevents many parents of children with autism from attending church regularly.
Do a “safety audit” – make sure basic child safety guidelines are being observed
Keep outside doors closed – especially those leading to parking lots or streets.
An adult needs to be with autistic children at all times – unless otherwise specified by a parent.Safety
Some children with autism may need one-to-one assistance. attending church regularly.
Many organizations have programs available to train volunteers, Sunday School teachers, and staff on how to manage and assist a child with autism.
Always include children with autism in regular class activities, when possible.
Provide a “reserved” seat for children with autism to help encourage routine.Comfortable Spaces: Sunday School
Again, the attending church regularly.best tool a parent of children with autism can have is preparation:
A simple heads-up on changes in Sunday school routine, redecorated or refurnished rooms, new room assignments, and new curriculum can make a big difference in how a child with autism reacts to new situations.Comfortable Spaces: Sunday School
Autism Society of attending church regularly.Indianawww.autismsocietyofindiana.org“Allies” are a great resource on education and how to start the process of your congregation becoming special-needs friendly.
Easter Seals Crossroadswww.eastersealscrossroads.orgRespite: giving caretakers breaks. “Parent's Day Out”
Autism Speakswww.autismspeaks.orgGeneral information and national/local advocacyas well as information for faith-based organizations.
Local Autism Support GroupsResources
www.lifeslittlepuzzle.com attending church regularly.
If you would like a copy of this presentation and the resources referenced in today’s session, please leave us your e-mail and we will be happy to send you more information.Questions & Discussion