Friday, September 30, 2016

Disability Ministry is Not Just to Those With Disabilities

Disability Ministry
Disability ministry is extremely important. Churches must be reaching out to those with disabilities. But that should not be the only goal for disability ministry.

While not taking away from the needs of those with a disability, disabilities affect the entire family. Much of the contact that I have is with parents of children with disabilities. I know from experience that it is not easy. There are all sorts of financial, physical, emotional and spiritual challenges that go with being a parent. The same is true with being a sibling.

If your church wants to become disability-friendly, you need to take a wholistic approach. Yes, provide a safe and welcoming place for the person with the disability. But consider how you can minister to the rest of the family as well. You can really make a difference.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Why Do People With Autism Stim?

If you met our son, you would find him with a square-shaped toy in a sock covered with some plastic. If you met our daughter, you would find her with a CD or DVD held up to her face. This is called stimming. What is stimming? Find out in this video.


Monday, September 26, 2016

The Side of Autism You Don't Want to See

We all love to see the stories of people with autism who are exceptionally bright or who have a savant ability. We are encouraged when we see people with autism who become very successful.

We need to see those stories but we need to balance them with the other side of autism.

In this video, you see a mother trying to comfort her daughter who is having a meltdown. We have had many experiences like this. It is never easy.

If you are church that wants to welcome families with autism, realize that this is one of the reasons why some parents are hesitant to attend church.

Friday, September 23, 2016

What Does an Autism Meltdown Look Like?

One of the misunderstandings about autism is that meltdowns are simply temper tantrums. An autism meltdown is so much more.

This is a good video of a meltdown that also includes the mom talking to her son about it afterwards. It is very helpful.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Living With Autism

Presented and narrated by actor Hugo Weaving, this animation looks at the key characteristics of autism as experienced by his 16-year-old nephew Ky Greenwood. The project was part of Sentis' “Great Works” program and was inspired by Ky’s father William who is part of the Sentis team. Autism Queensland is proud to support this film.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Where Do Autistic Children Belong in Sunday School?

Sunday School
What I'm going to talk about here is relevant to many disabilities, but since autism is my experience, I will focus there.

If you have a child with autism in your Sunday school, should you place them with other children of their age level or with other children of their intellectual level? I'm speaking here of children who are on the severe end of the spectrum, not those on the mild end.

It might be tempting to just put the child with autism with the younger children and let them watch some Veggie Tales. That might be easier, but is that the best way?

One thing to keep in mind is that it is very difficult to determine the intellectual level of a person with severe autism. Often the communication challenges make testing intellectual capabilities quite challenging. For example, many people consider our son to be "low functioning" because he is nonverbal, but in fact he is very intelligent.

I would suggest that the best option is to put the child in an age appropriate class, but with sufficient help. Never underestimate the benefits of being able to model behaviour based on peer relationships. This can be a difficult option, especially with a lack of resources, but it should be the goal.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Why You Should Attend Life to the Full

I had the opportunity be filmed for a promotion for the Life to the Full conference. I'm on the planning team for this conference and I can't recommend it enough. Watch the video below for why I think you should attend Life to the Full. Registration closes Oct. 3, so register today!

Life to the Full Conference with Stephen Bedard from Julie's Photograph on Vimeo.

Monday, September 12, 2016

What is Autism?

Learn about the nature of autism from a person with autism.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Good News: Happy Birthday Abby!

Good News
Although my website is back up, I'm not posting there until I have transferred to my new host and I do a bit of redesign. So once again, I will do my Good News post on this blog rather than my other one. That is fine as my good news is autism-related.

Tomorrow is our daughter Abby's fourteenth birthday. It is hard to believe that she is this old already. It seems like only yesterday that we were bringing her home from the hospital.

Abby is a major daddy's girl (just like Logan is a momma's boy). We have always been very close. It was one of the hardest things when she went off to a group home. But we have made good choices that have strengthened our relationship with her. We get regular visits with Abby and they are always lots of fun.

On our most recent visit, Abby was super-hyper. There was lots of giggles and jumping around. It is so good to see her happy.

Happy birthday Abby! We love you!

Stephen Bedard

Thursday, September 8, 2016

4 Things Not to Say to a Parent When a Child is Diagnosed With Autism

No matter what a person thinks of neuro-diversity and the positive aspects of autism, it is always difficult when a child receives a diagnosis of autism. There are a thousand things going through the parent's mind. It is natural for family and friends to want to encourage and comfort the parent.

Sometimes it is better to say nothing rather than to say the wrong thing. Here are four things that you should not say. These are things that have been said to us.

1. "God knew you were such great parents that he chose to give you a child with autism."
2. "Don't listen to the doctor, your child doesn't have autism. They are just a late-bloomer."
3. "Autism is not that bad. I know a family..."
4. "At least it is autism and not some terminal illness."

Don't try to explain why the child has autism. Just be there for them and let them express their feelings the way they need to.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

5 Things To Do When a Child With Autism Makes Noise in Church

Children with autism are known for making noise in church. Sometimes they say what some adults want to say. One Sunday, our son said with a fairly loud voice during the service, "Just kill me now!" In case you are wondering, I wasn't preaching at the time.

You need to realize that parents are very aware of the noise their children make and it is always easier to just stay at home rather than to risk uncomfortable situations. How people in the church react will determine if those parents will ever return to the church.

Here are five things to do when a child with autism makes noise in church.

1. Do not allow yourself to give the parents a dirty look. They know their child made the noise. Your dirty look will not help the situation and will likely make it worse.

2. If you do look at the parents during the noise, look at them with a smiling and caring face.

3. Say a prayer for the family. Not a prayer for the child to shut up but a prayer for calmness and peace for both the parents and the child.

4. Give thanks to God that a family with autism has been willing to come to your church.

5. Make a note to talk to the parents after church and tell them that you are glad they are a part of your church family.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Coping With Autism and Puberty

While we often hear about the people with autism who are the mild end of the spectrum, there are people who are on the more severe end.

This video is a good picture of what it is like to have children on the severe end. These two boys are very much like my own two children. I encourage you to watch this video.

Monday, September 5, 2016

What If Your Church Can't Start a Disability Ministry?

There are some large churches that have very organized and well staffed disability ministries. They have a sizeable budget and may have a specific pastor or other staff member overseeing it. These are the ministries that we often hear about.

But what if you are at church like mine? We are a small church with one pastor and not enough resources to have a specific disability ministry. We have two people with autism in our congregation and it would be difficult to build a ministry around them, especially since once is a child and the other an adult.

I want you to hear this one thing:


Think about it this way. Our church does not have a specific men's ministry and yet we minister to the men in our congregation. Ministry does not have to mean separating one group away from the others. We minister to the men, the same way we minister to everyone in the congregation.

The same is true for those with disabilities. I care for the people in our congregation with autism, not because they have autism, but because they are a part of our church family.

Now I understand that disabilities can produce some unique challenges. Physical disabilities are accommodated by making the building wheel chair accessible and having elevators. Developmental disabilities will need their own accommodations.

I will not go into details about how exactly to do that, as there are many posts on this blog, as well as my book, How to Make Your Church-Autism Friendly, which give practical tips.

The main thing is that a church not turn away a person with a disability just because they don't have a disability ministry. We would not turn away men because we don't have a men's ministry. You minister to people with disabilities the same way you minister to anyone, by loving them, treating them with respect and pointing them to Jesus.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Good News: Love My Kids

Good News
Since my main website is down again, I will write my Good News post here. I do a weekly Good News post on my blog as a way of trying to stay positive.

This past week, we had our two children with autism come for a visit. It was nice in that our other three children were away at camp and so things were a bit quieter in the house. It is difficult having our children living in a different city but there are good things. We get to see them regularly and the overnight visits are going very well. Our relationship with them is much better now than it was when they lived with us. We can enjoy them without all of the daily stress that comes with autism.

We have a lot of fun with our children and that is good news.

Enjoying some Mac & Cheese together!
In This video, my daughter shares her opinion of my singing.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Hardest Thing About Autism

I want to make it clear that what I'm about to say is my experience and is not meant to describe the experience of any other autism parent.

I understand that there is pressure from within the autism community to not see or speak of autism in a negative way. I hear those concerns, especially from those who are on the milder end of the spectrum.

Having said that, I have two children with autism, aged 13 and 15. Since they were diagnosed at an early age, autism has been a part of our life for a long time. We have had a lot of great times and a lot of difficult times.

Being scared of them running off, destroying property and hurting siblings has all been difficult. But there is something else that is harder for me.

It happens when I meet children the same age as my children and realize how far away they are from "normal." I know that I'm not even supposed to speak like that, but I don't know how else to describe it. These children have friends, get part-time jobs, prepare to get their driver's license, think about what they will do for a career and so on.

Our children are both nonverbal and I would love to be able to have a normal conversation with them. The autism affects their behaviours in such a way that they live in a group home and not with us. Other parents take for granted these simple things that they can enjoy. But for parents with children on the severe end of the spectrum, this is a daily grief.

I do not resent other children who are not affected by autism the way our children are. But it is a difficult reminder of hopes and dreams that ended with a diagnosis.

Stephen Bedard

Friday, September 2, 2016