Autism in Faith Formation (SN 4)Course Level: Advanced

Course Summary

Any Church community, if it thinks it can comfortably go its own way without creative concern and effective cooperation in helping the poor to live with dignity and reaching out to everyone, will also risk breaking down, however much it may talk about social issues or criticize governments. It will easily drift into a spiritual worldliness camouflaged by religious practices, unproductive meetings and empty talk. (His Holiness, Pope Francis, 11/24/13, no. 207)

The above quotation from Pope Francis echoes in the halls of our faith formation settings, in our hearts, our homes and gathering places. It is important that all persons involved in faith formation, understand what it takes to minister to persons with special needs.

This e-course introduces catechetical leaders, catechists, catholic school educators and parents to a deeper understanding and the impact of autism spectrum disorders on faith formation. It can be perceived as a guide for cultivating faith learning environments that support and incorporate persons with autism within the catechetical environment. Understanding developmental disorders, including autism, will make it easier to embrace individuals with these disorders and their families in parish life. The course will also cover proven suggestions and techniques to engage and communicate effectively with individuals with autism spectrum disorders within catechetical settings.

Course prerequisite: Disabilities in Parish Life: An Overview

Successful completion of this course earns 2.5 CEU's. Click here for more information about CEU's.

General Course Objectives

  • To identify current research on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and how to utilize such for faith formation settings
  • To identify and explain the pastoral implications for persons with ASD and best methods of assisting families
  • To explain the challenges of working with persons with autism spectrum disorder in the catechetical setting
  • To identify strategies for engaging persons with autism spectrum disorder through both individual instruction and in the typical classroom setting
  • To demonstrate catechetical sensitivity (through familiarization with Church documents) to the positive and negative impact of autism spectrum disorder on the lives of individuals and their families

Course Materials

  • Required Book: Sutton, L.R. How to Welcome, Include, and Catechize Children with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities: A Parish-Based Approach Chicago: Loyola Press, 2013. ISBN: 978-0829438901
  • Required Book: Rizzo, D. Faith, Family, and Children with Special Needs: How Catholic Parents and Their Kids with Special Needs Can Develop a Richer Spiritual Life Chicago: Loyola Press, 2012. ISBN: 978-0829436518

Course Structure and Highlights

  • Week 1: What Is Autism?
    • To identify factors that constitute a developmental disorder
    • To identify methods in handling the increasing prevalence of autism and other developmental disabilities
    • To identify steps for diagnosing autism spectrum disorder
    • To explain the difference in forms of communication for persons diagnosed with ASD
    • To identify teaching methods for students who fall within the autism spectrum disorder require different measures to determine success or failure when compared to non-autistic youth or individuals who are neurotypical
  • Week 2: Church Documents on Autism and Other Developmental Disorders/Disabilities
    • To be familiar with Church documents and their place in faith formation settings
    • To understand the teachings of the Church with regards to Autism especially in light of current research methods
    • To be familiar with catechetical methodology for persons on the autism spectrum
    • To seek and identify acceptable research methods by the Church
  • Week 3: International Perspectives on Autism and Catechesis
    • To identify the developing research on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in other countries or regions and learn from one another.
    • To identify areas of successes that can be replicated and other areas that need further attention in catechetical formation.
    • To research the ongoing dialogue on autism across the world, and, seek out connections with good practices for catechesis.
  • Week 4: Strategies & Best Practices for faith formation settings
    • To identify best practices in catechetical settings and find ways of adapting these practices to local regions
    • To identify areas that need further development and put together a plan of outreach for one’s local parish/diocese
    • To identify resources that will enhance catechetical formation for persons with ASD
  • Week 5: Future Trends for Catechesis
    • To identify resources (including human resources) for assisting all involved in faith formation
    • To create a plan for catechizing persons with ASD – ensuring the awareness and need for ongoing catechetical support for parents and catechists
    • To assist catechists and mentors in developing meaningful prayer lives, a key component of ministering the Word of God to all members