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A program to improve Catholic religious education and family life for individuals with autism


A program to improve Catholic religious education and family life for individuals with autism – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: A program to improve Catholic religious education and family life for individuals with autism

A program to improve Catholic religious education
and family life for individuals with autism
  • Deacon Lawrence R. Sutton, Ph.D.
  • Former Board President
  • National Apostolate for Inclusion Ministry and
  • Member of the
  • Council on Intellectual and Developmental
    Disabilities (NCPD)

Two Stories
  • Michael
  • Limited/no language skills until age 9
  • Could not express himself
  • Greg
  • IQ changed over time
  • Improved information processing

There are a lot of Michaels and Gregs.
Headline News
  • Fear, ignorance played a role in autistic boys
    death (March 2004)
  • Sacramental preparation classes to begin for
    children with autism (March 2006)
  • People with special needs are welcome (June 2008)
  • Returning to the Church Catholic programs for
    disabled children help reach parents (2010)

The Need for an Adaptive Program
  • In April 2003, two second-grade children with
    autism were turned away before celebrating their
    first Eucharist.

The Need for an Adaptive Program
  • Limited religious education
  • Preparation for Confirmation
  • Inclusion in the adult Catholic community

Who Does Autism Impact?
  • Children with autism
  • Families
  • Catechists
  • Parish community
  • Clergy
  • School principal
  • DREs and other who teach/work with IDD children

Functional Definitions of Autism
What is Autism?
  • Developmental disorder
  • Global term
  • Noted impairment in four domains
  • Developmental onset
  • Language
  • Social
  • Behavioral/Sensory

What Is Autism?Developmental Impairments
  • Delayed use of language
  • Difficulty understanding what is said
  • Difficulty expressing thoughts with words
  • Latency in response

What Is Autism?Language Impairments
  • Difficulty understanding tone
  • Do not understand facialexpressions
  • Do not process people, justattributes

What Is Autism?Social Impairments
  • Individual play and leisure time
  • Lack of social sense
  • Difficulty with empathy and other emotions
  • Demonstrate very concrete understanding

What Is Autism?Behavioral/Sensory Impairments
  • Tantrums
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Fears/Phobias
  • Stims
  • Picky eaters
  • Sensitivity to touch and sounds

Is Autism Real?
  • CDC estimates that about 1 in 50 children has
    been identified with an autism spectrum disorder
  • Doctors look at the childs behavior and
    development to make a diagnosis. 
  • ASDs can sometimes be detected at 18 months or
  • By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced
    professional can be considered very reliable.

So what is it I really know about autism?
  • Who do you know who is autistic
  • What can an autistic people do
  • How can I be pastoral to a child who is
    autistic or to their family, my degrees are in
    philosophy and theology
  • What does stimming really mean?

The Goal
  • We must open the door for autistic children to
    enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

(No Transcript)
The Curriculum
  • Interactive
  • One-on-one instruction
  • Support materials

The CurriculumWho Is Involved?
The CurriculumStructure
  • Preschool/early Pre-Eucharist years Years 1 and
  • Preparation for Sacraments of Initiation and
  • The Saints, the Mass, and Rituals
  • Confirmation
  • Post-Confirmation

The CurriculumPre-Eucharist
  • Based on the Book of Genesis
  • A two-year weekly series of lessons

The CurriculumPreparation for the Sacraments
  • Weekly lessons
  • Exercises to reinforce weekly theme
  • Practice in rituals

The CurriculumPreparation for Sacraments
  • Reconciliation
  • For those with language skills
  • Review the ways people hurt God
  • Have the child say modified Act of Contrition
  • For those without language skills
  • Use manipulatives to show good and bad behavior
  • Repeat modified Act of Contrition with child

The CurriculumPreparation for Sacraments
  • Modified Act of Contrition
  • Oh my God, I am sorry for my sins. (In choosing
    to sin and in failing to do good, I have sinned
    against you and your church. I firmly intend,
    with the help of your grace, to make up for my
    sins and to love as I should.) Amen. (Beth Mayer)

The CurriculumPreparation for Sacraments
  • I pray with my family.
  • I ask God for forgiveness for the sins I
    committed with the help of the priest.
  • The priest offers Gods forgiveness.
  • I pray my penance.

The CurriculumPreparation for Sacraments
  • Practice aspects of rites
  • Use visual examples in the childs home church
    with a family member
  • Allow the child to see, touch and to be a part of
    Church practices

The CurriculumMass and Rituals
  • The Mass
  • The Stations of the Cross
  • RitualsA guide to theSacraments

The CurriculumWho Is Involved?
  • Teen Faith Mentors
  • Directors of religious education (DREs)
  • Clergy (Pastor)
  • Parents

The CurriculumWho Is InvolvedCommunication is
  • Key players need to understand how to communicate
    and how that individual child communicates.

The CurriculumWho Is InvolvedCommunication is
  • Autism is an information processing disorder.
  • How does a child with autism communicate?
  • Communication is understanding.
  • Play to the strengths of the child (what does the
    child do well, can they draw,
  • sing, complete crafts...

The CurriculumWho Is InvolvedTeen Faith Mentors
  • Teen Faith Mentors need to . . .
  • Know what autism and other developmental
    disorders are
  • Understand the difference between developmental
    disorders and psychiatric disorders
  • Review, understand, and preparematerials

The CurriculumWho Is InvolvedDREs
  • DREs are responsible for . . .
  • Defining the roles of catechists, parents, and
    outside professionals (e.g., psychologists)
  • Listening to and engaging the family
  • Determining how to best include a child with
    autism in the classroom and the community

The CurriculumWho Is InvolvedClergy
  • Clergy need to know how to . . .
  • Be pastoral to the disabled person and his or her
  • Find meaningful accommodations
  • Reach the disabled from the pulpit
  • Communicate during the Sacrament of
  • Did you know there are autism clergy?

The CurriculumWho Is InvolvedParents
  • Parents will have to . . .
  • Know what to expect (and not expect)
  • Define what their child needs
  • Observe and participate
  • Know when (and where) to seekadditional help

Some of Our Challenges
  • Concrete/Literal Thinkers
  • Fears and Concerns of DREs
  • Allergies
  • Emotional Concerns
  • Environmental Challenges

Some of Our ChallengesConcrete/Literal Thinkers
  • How does one explain the mysteries of our Church
    to someone who thinks literally?

Some of Our ChallengesFears and Concerns of DREs
  • Miscommunication
  • Behaviors
  • Qualifications
  • Sacraments

Some of Our ChallengesAllergies
  • Some people with autism have allergies to gluten.
  • Altar breads must be made with wheat and contain
  • The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration
    bake low-gluten altar breads.

Some of Our ChallengesAllergies
  • The Office of the Secretariat for Liturgy
    approved their low-gluten altar breads
  • Having reviewed the laboratory reports you sent
    . . . I am pleased to state that these special
    hosts are indeed made according to the
    requirements of the Code of Canon Law (c.924) . .
    . and may be validly used at Mass in the diocese
    of the United States with appropriate
  • www.altarbreadsbspa.com

Some of Our ChallengesEmotional Concerns
  • People with autism perceive things differently.
  • Differences in routines cause stress.
  • They have ineffective strategies for dealing with

Some of Our ChallengesEnvironmental Challenges
  • Sources of distraction
  • Perceptual issues
  • Internally disorganized

Good Surprises
  • Students
  • Teen Faith Mentors
  • Families
  • Improved quality of life

Additional Resources
  • Deacon Lawrence R. Sutton, Ph.D.
    lawrence.Sutton_at_stvincent.edu lsutton_at_diopitt.org
  • National Catholic Partnership on Disability
  • National Catholic Office for the Deaf
  • Special Religious Development, Archdiocese of
    Chicago (www.spred.org)
  • Archdiocese of Washington, Ministry for Special
    Needs (www.adw.org)
  • University of Dayton -The Virtual Learning
    Community for Faith Formation (VLCFF)

  • Inclusion begins in our hearts. It begins with
    affirmation. We should open our hearts to one
    another and recognize the strengths of every
    person. . . When we open our hearts and our
    community to the gifts each person brings, we are
    all strengthened. 
  • Joseph Cardinal Bernadin

The time is now.Please start.
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