I’ve written a few posts before about some of our challenges at church with our boys over the years. We’ve spent many years wandering the halls with one or more of our boys and often struggled to feel like a part of our church community. We’ve found that people are often willing to help, they just need some input from us on how to do so. We do our best, but we don’t have all the answers either.
While bookstores and libraries abound with books about the autism spectrum, special education, therapies, and other related topics, we were pretty much on our own when it came to guidance for helping our boys have positive experiences and successful interactions at church.
The new book, “(dis)Abilities and the Gospel: How to bring people with special needs closer to Christ” by Danyelle Ferguson and Lynn Parsons, is sure to be a helpful resource to parents and church leaders alike. I am excited for the opportunity to review it! Seriously, this is the book we needed back when Cuddlebug and Bearhug were first dx’d and we didn’t have a clue what we were doing, or when Bitty was dx’d and we were struggling to figure out how to meet the individual needs of three young boys on the autism spectrum (amid just trying to get through the day). I’m grateful that now it’s finally here :).
The first part of the book is geared toward church leaders and teachers who work with children with special needs, with topics including what to expect in various scenarios, specific teaching strategies, setting goals, and recognizing progress even when it comes in small steps or takes long stretches of time. Many of the strategies will be helpful for all children, not only those with special needs. Some of the ideas will already be familiar to parents and other family members, but will likely be helpful to teachers and leaders who don’t have a family member with special needs. Other ideas I was excited to see were new to me, even being a relatively experienced autism / SPD mom. 🙂
The second part of the book covers specific topics broken down by age group – from young children to adults – and seemed (to me at least) to be geared toward both parents and teachers. The third part is focused on families and offers suggestions for surviving church, teaching basic gospel principles such as prayer and scripture reading, family home evenings (family night), and strengthening family relationships, including marriage.
Throughout the book are real-life experiences which not only illustrate the various topics but also reinforce the message that the reader is not alone in their experiences. Discussion of challenges is honest and accompanied by encouragement. The tone throughout is positive and uplifting, and focused on approaching each individual as a unique and precious child of God.
While the book includes many topics that specifically relate to the LDS faith, I think the teaching strategies, church-survival ideas and many other suggestions will be helpful to those of any faith, and many can be applied beyond the church setting as well.
All in all, I definitely recommend this book to those who teach individuals with special needs in a church or community setting as well as to parents and family members looking for ideas on how to help their loved ones have positive spiritual experiences that will help them feel the love of Christ and bring them closer to Him.