One of the hardest things for a parent of a child with special needs is getting that child’s (and his or her own) religious needs met. Kathy Labosh, the parent of two children on the autism spectrum, knows first hand how difficult that battle can be, and she set out to do something about it.
She approached the Director of Religious Education at her home parish about the need for a special education classroom. The DRE responded, “Great. I’ll find you a room; just tell me what you need.” Labosh hadn’t expected that, but did her best to meet the need. She shares what she learned and offers a blueprint to other special needs religious education teachers in The Child with Autism Learns about Faith.
Labosh suggests having the parents of the children with autism attend the class along with their children. This allows them to serve as aids, working one-on-one with their individual child, but also provides an opportunity for the parents to have their own faith enriched and to connect with other parents walking in their shoes.
Each lesson plan includes prayer, group activities, scripture reading, packet work (individual work), video/songs (during which time the parents have a short reflection time together), and a closing prayer. The time for parents to connect is especially worthwhile. Labosh has included reflection questions especially geared to those parenting children with autism.
The Child with Autism Learns about Faith is a valuable resource. It only covers Genesis and Exodus, but creative religious education teachers could certainly use the same framework to cover other topics with a little adaptation. It also is helpful to have at least a few students in the class. It might be worthwhile to have two or three parishes work together to create a class if one by itself does not have enough students to support a separate special needs class.