What are some of your earliest memories of church?
Can you remember a friend you sat beside?
Can you recall your favorite Bible stories or a favorite Sunday School teacher?
One of my favorite memories was sitting beside my best friend, colouring pictures of Jesus and listening to the teacher read the story from the children’s Bible. Our Sunday school room was on the second level of a beautiful old church and had big windows that allowed for sunshine to come flooding in. When we were done with Sunday school, we would run downstairs, have juice and cookies with the rest of the congregation, and show our parents our colouring projects. I look back on that memory and am thankful for that friendship. It allowed me to feel safe and happy in the Sunday school room.
For many children though, friendships can be challenging to navigate, and they may need additional support. Within our communities of faith, we want them to experience welcome and know that they are valued too.
We need practical tools that can help us reach out to our children and support them properly. We need to learn how to equip each child to reach out and to support each other, especially the ones who are struggling to be included.
In your Sunday school, how well is the child with autism engaged with the others? What unique gifts do they bring? How could you encourage the other children to develop deeper friendships with them? What ways could this group of children work together to help them navigate challenging emotions?
Barbara J. Newman has written this wonderful guide to supporting children in her book, Helping Kids include Kids with Disabilities. Chapters focus on children with various disabilities and offer creative ways to work with those children. The key, Barbara writes, is to work with all the children, teaching each the skills to embrace each other.
This book is a treasure trove of resources:
lesson plans for the teacher
learning plans for the parents
helpful fact sheets that offer quick reference guides
basic adaptations for activities that will help children feel successful
In honour of April being World Autism Month, we are giving our readership a sample of Barbara's book - the chapter on Autism Spectrum Disorder (the pdf can be found in the attachment linked to this post). We hope you find her ideas and perspective on engaging children living with autism very helpful.
A note about the author:
Barbara J. Newman has written extensively on supporting people of all abilities. Barbara is the Director of Church Services for one of our partner organizations, All Belong: Center for Inclusive Education. Here are some of the books she has written on the topic::
Also Available through Faith Alive Resources:
Available through All Belong: