Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cut and paste article about ministry to children with autism in church

Doc provided a fantastic handout that answers the following questions:
Why is training important? 
Who needs training?
What should we talk about in training?
Doc’s handout provides a detailed blueprint for special needs ministry training events. To access the handout, click here: OC14_ Autism_Hunsley_Handout
Doc then walked the participants through 10 scenarios a volunteer might face and coaching for how to respond:
Agitated Student 
Get on child’s level.
Stay calm, talk them through what is going on.
Use simple language.
Let them know what is expected using First, then language: “First we are going to listen to the story, then we are going to have a snack.”
Have student repeat back the statement if they are verbal.
Give the student a choice as part of the solution “You can choose the red chair or the black chair for story time.”
Overstimulated Student
Take note of factors when student is agitated.
Give the student warnings ahead of time: “2 minutes left for this activity”
Give student the chance to acclimate/cool down ahead of time (remove from activity ahead of others.)
Large Group Challenge
Student appears upset, hands over ears, squinting eyes = sensory overload
Look for the trigger(s):  overcrowded room, lights, noise, smell
Try moving student to another part of room.  E.g. Nearby volunteer might have on irritating perfume.
Provide a sensory toy such as a squish toy or fidget. This gives them something to focus their energy on.
Massage on shoulder, deep pressure for some students is relaxing. (Ask parents for guidance.)
Keep noise reduction earphones on hand and provide as needed.
Allow student to participate in a more controlled environment while still feeling part of what is going on. (For example, student may be in a nearby room where they can still see and hear, but they have some distance from the intensity. Also, going to a room that provides a livestream of what is happening in large group.)
Objects in Mouth
If you offer snacks, this might be good time to pull them one out for student.
Student may need a way to “fidget” even if with hands, provide box of fidget toys
Clean your toys regularly!
If continual problem, ask parents how they address it at home. Parents may have preferred chew toy that can come to church.
If the are in danger of hurting themselves or others, it needs to be addressed.
Meltdowns can happen at any age.
Create distance between individual having meltdown and everyone else.
Take the classroom or small group out of the environment (suggest bathroom break.)
It is often easier to remove everyone else and not the person with the meltdown.
Try to figure out what the trigger or core problem that caused the meltdown.
When possible, remove the problem.
Recognize that you might be the trigger for the meltdown.
Call for help as soon as serious meltdown starts.
You don’t want to immediately call parents if you think this can be handled. (You will tell parents at pick-up.)
If student is in danger of others, be mindful of your own safety.
Talk soft, talk soft, calm.
Find way to talk about something they can look forward to…snack, favorite activity, when parents will arrive.
Look for obstacles to remove, ex. diminish the lighting in the room, lower noise, offer a weighted blanket.
(Homemade weighted blankets are great.)
Doc recently used a 15 lb weighted blanket to help calm a teen in their ministry who was showing early signs of meltdown.
When nothing else is working, do get the parents.
Be prepared for fast kids who could be locksmiths.
Recognize that some “runners” see it as a game.
Don’t chase a kid who runs because it is a game, you won’t win the race.
If it isn’t a game, then they are probably trying to escape something…look for the trigger.
Create a code word for your church security team for “runner”.
Church security should have a plan to cover every “escape route” and door.
Common for runners to hide…don’t be surprised to find a student in an impossibly small cabinet (away from all stimulation).
This is more likely to happen during transitions.
For identified runners, have someone walk immediately beside them and hold hand.
Look for opportunities to reward student for good behavior to motivate for continued good choice.
Parent Conversations
Try hard to look for positives to share with parents.
Most parents have been told they are “horrible” parent at some point.
The church needs to be place of refuge where parents know their child with special needs is loved on.
Find way to communicate acceptance and non-judgment in parent convo’s.
Ministry coordinator needs to be involved, to help determine if convo is needed and how it should be communicated.
Some “bad” days aren’t worth mentioning to parents.
If there is a Sunday that is out of the ordinary, the parents DO need to know.
Talk to parents in private, not in hallway.
Talk in “sandwich”: Offer positive for what the child did that day, then state the FACTS (no emotion) about the negative, then follow with different and additional positive
Peer Interaction (Verbal child is struggling to interact with non-verbal peer)
Recognize that students usually ask the adult helpers the question, not their peers (true for typical and neuro-typical).
As the leader, include the child who does not communicate verbally in the response.
Encourage the peer to ask “Yes” or “No” questions so that student can answer with head nod.
Unengaged Student
A student may be doing his/her very best just to be calm.
Don’t push a student to be involved, they may still be learning.
A student walking or playing in back of room may be annoying to teacher…but he may be learning.
Ask the student a question from time to time. You may be surprised in what he learns.
Recognized that an unengaged student may still be “getting” the Bible story.
Sometimes, it is okay to invite student to participate. Offer hand (hand over hand) to help do motions.
Recognize opportunities to “help” student have fun, dance, etc.
If student does not respond positively, leave them alone.
Let the student dow hat is comfortable.
Most important thing is to look at the clock and time seizure.
The length of time for a seizure is the most important info for medical team.
(A five-minute seizure is an emergency.)
Help student to be safe, lay on ground.
Do not put anything in the child’s mouth.
Call for help. Call for parents after situation is secure.
Talk to parents ahead of time, always ask about seizure history.
Some kids have many seizures are not necessarily a “big deal”.
For other students, seizures are a huge deal.
Get coaching from parents on how to handle.
(Some parents will tell you they don’t need to be called out of service for minor seizures.)
After a seizure students will be lethargic.
Q: Do you ask parents about their child ahead of time?
A: Yes, every family of a child with identified special needs completes a “Plan of Care” before leaving their child in church care. In cases where child shows signs of special needs but they aren’t identified (family may not recognize or share issues), then Doc approaches parent with the idea to provide a buddy as a solution to help student experience success in church…and in this conversation Doc can interject questions that would be covered on the church’s Plan of Care (intake) forms.
Q: What age do you require buddies to be?
A: It is determined on an individual basis. We have one 8-year old peer buddy who is better than some of our teen volunteers. Teens are great, I just share it as an example to say that younger kids can be great.
Doc Quote: “The Church should be a refuge for families with special needs.”
You can connect with Doc on Twitter @DocHunsley or follow Grace Church’s special needs Ministry, SOAR, on Facebook.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Excited about the new book

At this particular snapshot of time, I am really happy about the new book I'm working on with the working title of Finding Home, the fourth (or possible fifth, depending on whether or not the division of The Scarred King into two books stands) book in The Scarred King series, set in my son's universe.
I think I told you before, but I'm going to tell you again, that we started this years ago when Joshua Foreman handed me a name, Bomar, a picture, and the situation set on another planet where the hero had to kill his best friend in a fight on a bronze disc set over hot lava. I asked, "Why would anyone DO such a thing?" He shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't know, I was the writer. Then he gave me the list of aliens and their pictures. And I tried to figure out a world in which such a thing was logical. Along the way, I invented an alien I am inordinately fond of, for in all my decades of reading science fiction I have never seen a similar alien. Joshua let him stay in the universe. And I changed the hero's name from Bomar to Bowmark. About halfway through The Scarred King, my son said, "Oh, and all through the book Bowmark needs to be chased by a Warrior Woman. Oh, beat my head against the wall! Well, Josh got half his order. The Warrior Woman chases Bowmark through half the book.

So here is our present procedure: I think about the world of Talifar and the peoples in it until somebody's story becomes urgent to me. I tell Josh my idea, he gives the okay, and I take forever to write the novel because I am a slooow writer. I get the story critiqued, and the first draft goes from dreck to something at least readable, and then I hand the book back to Josh. He goes through the book and corrects my depictions of aliens. ("What? Did you forget that (   ) is like this?" Yeah, I did forget.) We argue over names a bit. He checks for continuity errors and tries to fix my mess of directions people have gone off to. He even made me a map but I keep forgetting to look at it, and I still can't tell left from right. He lengthens and intensifies the fights. Sometimes he adds a scene. Sometimes he adds a character. He reads the novel to his teenage son who has the intelligence to recognize my genius. Sometimes the teenage son has a suggestion.

Now the new novel, Finding Home. And now I'm going to say something I hesitate to say because I fear greatly taking God's Name in vain, which is not so much cursing as it is saying that God said, (something made up) that He never said. But at this moment this feels like something God laid on my heart. This is a story I have to tell. I don't know that the story will be publishable. I feel like the other novels are publishable, thought they have not yet been picked up by a house looking for YA sf adventure. This one, I just don't know. I also don't care because this is the story I must write. When I finish Finding Home, I think perhaps the next novel with be a Wizard's Apprentice story. And after that, one about the Ice Sailors?

This world Josh made with a handwavium anomaly that makes a variety of species crashland on the planet is so interesting that a hundred novels could be set within it. I like that the little bits of technology dug up are treated like magic, so that although the stories read like high fantasy, they really are science fiction. Oh-oh, I may have given away something there I wasn't supposed to.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rwandan business

Occasionally I see the Rwandan that is staying with us for a few weeks as he and my nephew buy supplies for finishing the Lighthouse, a student center/Bible school/mall for four local businesses/benevolences center/hotel/restaurant. The plan is that once the money makers are up and running, they will pay for all the nonmoney makers, and we will not need to support Come And See Rwanda other than in a fellowship and organize mission trips way. There is a website for Come And See Africa International that explains more about what we are doing there. Oh, and really cool, in the foyer a seven giant Rwandan baskets will hang with "Forgive" written in 490 languages on them.

After all the complaining I did after my cochlear implant a while back, I should announce that the last time I had my hearing checked, under ideal conditions, I now comprehend 85 percent of what I hear! Squeee! I still miss some phonemes, but this is so much better than the 11 percent I had before the implant.

Review of Through Many Dangers by Dana Rongione

If you are a fan of girl detective stories, you will probably like this book. One of the reasons that I enjoyed the book is that I learned something about pirate eye patches I had never heard before. And I discovered New Jersey has more geography than I expected. Several words were placed in a glossary at the back of the book to help readers that might not yet have an extensive vocabulary. I was a little puzzled by some of the choices of which words went into the glossary and which did not. 'Moderate' made the cut, but not meandering. Not a big deal. I also like the links at the end of the book for kids who just might want to look up more about things mentioned in the book. I think this would make a sweet gift for the middle grader girl in your life.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review of The Way of Kings and Words of Radience by Brandon Sanderson

THIS is what I read science fiction and fantasy for.
Five stars for the world and the ecology (and architecture and social custom and technology) that all cohere in a marvelous way. Five stars for the study of different ways men arrange themselves in government. Five stars for the invention of an entirely new class of magic creatures: the spren. (which in the second book are actually a very old idea, BUT that pieces of this old idea can break off, be seen, and achieve sentience still seem like a new idea to me) Five stars for some of most appealing heroes in an epic fantasy, especially Kaladin. Five stars for raising questions about how we choose our actions. In the first book, Kaladin always chooses the hard but right thing to do. In the second book, what the right thing to do becomes murkier, and he ends up making a choice based on a morality everyone else seems to be ignoring. You want to cheer. And yet another young man makes a choice that is nearly the opposite of what Kaladin chooses, and you want to cheer for that also. So.... how do you decide? Thank you, Brandon Sanderson for giving us so much to think about.
The books are long. It took me over a week to read the first book, and over a week for the second one. And I still hated reaching the end of each book. I am not happy that I am going to need to wait for the third book. Ah, but I'll get to reread the first books when the third one comes out.

Review of Message Stick by Laine Cunningham

I save my five stars for books that books that make me think so hard I can't sleep at night. I'm a sucker for all stories set in Australia any way, and this book also clearly delineates the inner life of a broad cast of characters with beautiful writing and devastating rage and sorrow. I had not known the particular bit of history, and cannot come up with an adequate response to that outrage. A beautiful book about an ugly situation. It does end with a note of hope.
I should warn those that hate spirituality in books, that the land-based religion of Aborigines is treated as a physical thing rather as well as a mental construct.

Review of Alpha Revelation by P.A. Baines

In a previous book, P. A. Baines explores the question of what happens when a computer achieves sentience. He revisits the question in this YA dystopian set on MARS. Although I think I would have come up with a different answer, his answer is interesting on many levels.
We follow a really likable young adult on the cusp of graduation and taking on of adult life who feels like he doesn't really belong to this cramped society. And then he finds out he feels like he doesn't belong because he really doesn't belong during a shattering revelation. And he has to cope with one revelation after another while danger around him grows. How is he going to save the people he loves?
I should warn you that there are at least two political views expressed within the novel that will either have you shouting, "Preach it, Brother!" or will have you spitting in anger. I'm of the Preach it! variety. One of the questions the character asks is why doesn't the Martian colony expand instead of living like they're in a space ship with no resources beyond their walls? Good question, and one I spent some time thinking about. I'm of the camp that thinks that in a world of limited pie, we should bake more pies. Some people think they should fight over the slices of pie. And some people think they should control the pie. I think the leaders of the colony picked option number three, with devastating consequences.
There is one thing that annoyed me. I seem to spend a lot of time b-, uh, griping about this. I can't stand God as a character chatting up other characters in a book. There is likely an amusing hypocrisy here in that I allow C. S. Lewis to do it, but I won't let stand the practice in 'Merican, Aussie, or Kiwi writers.
The ending surprised me, which doesn't happen often. I totally expected a different ending. It's good when a writer can surprise me. And it's good when a book can raise questions that make me think. And it's good when I can follow the adventures of a character I can like as much as I did Shor. I'm looking forward to Baines' next book.

Review of The Hall of Doors by Janice Clark

This is a perfect book for the target audience.
This is an easy to handle trilogy for middle grade girls. When I was a gradeschooler, I could not read enough sentimental stuff. I have since lost my taste for sentimentality, but then, I'm not the target audience. I thought the art, though not great, was adequate for the task. There is some decent invention (I especially liked the humpties) though the invention is not stellar. If there were typos, I did not find them. And the writing is clear. Although for me, the reading experience was a two and half to three star "meh", I went ahead and gave the book four stars because this would make a perfect gift for a little girl, especially one who has lost a beloved pet. I lost my first pet at the age of the main character and I still remember the pain. In fact, I think I hurt more than I did as an adult when I lost beloved people. I don't think I'm an awful person for that. When you're a kid, the experience is new. You have not yet had the experience of knowing the pain lasts for some time less than infinite, and you don't have the internal resources you have as an adult. When you've only been sentient for a few years, you are a great deal less about thinking, and great deal more about feeling. The author is good a guiding little girls through the thickets of emotion. The next two books in the trilogy do a good job of demonstrating coping skills while telling a good story. This book would make a lovely gift for the little girl in your life.