Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ministry and Disabilities Online Training

While much of what I do is encouraging churches to have the right attitude, there is an important need for training.

As a result, I was very happy to see that Biblical Training is offering some courses on Ministry and Disabilities. This is being done in cooperation with Joni & Friends. Go and check it out here.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ban This Word from Your Church

Do you want to make your church both disability and autism friendly? Here is a simple but difficult step to take.


Yes, I realize that 'retard' has entered the English language as a common way to describe something that you think is unwise. Even pastors will make statements about something that looks foolish by saying, "that is so retarded." I am sure that each Sunday, such phrases are used very often in churches by all sorts of people.

I also understand that most people do not mean it as a slur against people with disabilities.

But let me share my perspective as a father of two children who have been diagnosed with a global developmental delay (the current term for mental retardation). When I hear someone being described as a retard or as being retarded, what I hear is that this person is so stupid, they are as bad as Logan and Abby (yes, they do have names).

I do not say anything when I hear it, as people are free to say what they want. But if you want your church to be sensitive to disabilities, it may be time to do some teaching.

When I have talked about this before, I have been accused of promoting political correctness. I am far from being politically correct. The only agenda I have is basic respect for people who often do not have the opportunities to speak up for themselves.

If you want to call people retards, go ahead. But don't pretend that you care about people with developmental disabilities.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

What is Stimming?

If you spend any time with families with autism, you will either hear about or see stimming. What is stimming? You have to watch the video for the full answer.

My children with autism stim. My son likes to have a block like toy in a plastic bag that he constantly manipulates. He started with the toy in a sock, and he sometimes still includes socks, but it is the bag that is most important. We have to hide the sandwich bags when he visits or he will use them all. Our daughter has her own form of sign language. This is no official sign language but through it we can tell when she is really happy or really upset.

This video by a person with autism does a great job of explaining stimming.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Does God Create People With Disabilities?

"The question arises, however, whether God creates people with disabilities. On the one hand—yes—insofar as people with impairments of one kind or another are persons created in the image of God. But on the other hand, as something tragic—no. There is nothing inherently wrong with disability or with the people who have disabilities. Disability is a factor of being finite and contingent in an open universe subject to elements of unpredictability, instability and conflict."

- Thomas E. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion.
Purchase in: USA Canada

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Parents, Children and Group Homes

For some parents with children with autism, it is feasible to keep their children in their home well into adulthood. It is fantastic when that happens but it is not the story for all families.

It is not the story for our family.

In some cases, the situation calls for the child to go into a group home. It is not an easy decision, but it is sometimes needed. How do parents who have children in group homes feel about this?

I have not done research into the experiences of other parents, I can only speak of what we went through. Here are five things that we felt during and after the process of having two of our children move into group homes:

1. Desperation. This decision does not come up without a lot of pain beforehand. This does not emerge out of hope of becoming early empty nesters. The situation has to get very bad before parents send their children to a group home.

2. Guilt. Even though logically it seems clear that the child can be better cared for in a group home, the heart does not embrace the decision so easily. Parents can feel like they have betrayed their child. Dropping the child off at the group home for the first time is a heart wrenching experience.

3. Relief. After months or years of dealing with crisis after crisis, there is a sense of relief. Things are not getting broken. Children are not running away or getting physical with other siblings. For the first time in a long time there is a sense of peace.

4. Guilt Again. At first that relief is very nice. But then parents can feel guilty that they are appreciating the relief. Are the parents just being selfish by having the child outside the home? It takes awhile to overcome these feelings.

5. Healing. It is a terrible situation to have to send a (or more than one) child into group home. But over time something good emerges. It is possible to just enjoy your child. There is no resentment about the damage being done to the home or the family. The visits become a wonderful time of enjoying each other. Even if there are some difficult behaviours, they can be endured because they will go back to the group home. Our experience is that we get the best behaviour from our children during their visits.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

2 Big Autism Myths

There are plenty of myths about autism out there but here are the two I most often encounter:

1) People with autism can't be touched. There are plenty of people with autism who do not like to be touched. But this turns into the problem of imposing an experience with one person with autism on another. We have two children with autism. They are extremely affectionate and huggy. They thrive on the pressure of a really deep hug. They both like their backs rubbed. If anything, they are not discriminate enough in physical touch. Basically, people with autism are like everyone else, some like and some don't.

2) People with autism have special gifts. There are people with autism who are savants but most are not. I often get asked what our children's "special power" is. Sorry to disappoint you but they don't memorize the phonebook and they don't count cards. They are not musical prodigies either. It is really neat to see savants but do not assume that all people with autism of these gifts.