Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Full Inclusion Plan for Fellowship Bible Church By: Timothy Sloan Liberty University Abstract Members of Fellowship Bible Church (FBC) believe that all people need to have the opportunity to learn the biblical truths of God’s Word. This includes those that have any type of disability. This is why FBC feels led to organize and execute a full inclusion program for the children’s ministry. FBC is a growing church, and with constant expansion, there are increased needs. One family in particular has inspired FBC members to establish a unique addition to the children’s ministry, the Button family.
Mr. and Mrs. Button have only one child, 6 year old Benjamin. He has been diagnosed with autistic disorder. Recognizing the exceptional needs of this child, FBC has formed a program that is intellectually appropriate for him as well as his peers. The goal of this full inclusion program is to accommodate for Benjamin’s needs while giving the other children similar treatment. FBC’s framework explains the reasoning for this program through several perspectives. Benjamin’s disorder is explained, including symptomatic behaviors.
FBC’s plan to develop this children’s ministry program is described in detail. As part of FBC’s children’s ministry mission statement, commitment to all children is a priority in order to guarantee that each child learns biblical truths. This is achieved by utilizing a full inclusion plan which is the foundation for this agenda. Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Full Inclusion Plan for Fellowship Bible Church Fellowship Bible Church (FBC) opened for its first Sunday worship service on September 2nd, 2001. FBC is a nondenominational, evangelical, Christian church with about 400 members.
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FBC’s leadership is composed of 8 elders who all have the responsibility for a specific ministry. Sunday service begins with Sunday school at 9:30 am and following that is the worship service at 11:00 am. The worship service includes a time of praise and worship, singing, and a time of practical teaching from the Bible (Fellowship Bible Church, 2013). The worship is also composed of a mixture of Christian contemporary songs and classic hymns. These two genres are alternated every other week to adhere to the liking of the members. The Sunday morning services last about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Children’s church is also provided during the Sunday morning service. The church attendees are compiled of 58% men and 42% women. There are 125 teenagers in the youth ministry, 35 infants and toddlers in the nursery, and 56 children total in the church. This church is an excellent mix of members who share the same beliefs, love, and passion for the Word. Pastor Phil Moser is one of the three pastors. He speaks more often than the others. He has been the lead pastor for 11 years. He is recognized as the teaching pastor. The two associate pastors are Pastor Jack Klose and Pastor Hal Russell.
Pastor Jack Klose is head of student ministries and Pastor Hal Russell is head of adult ministries and pastoral care. They fill in when Pastor Phil is out of town or unable to preach due to other reasons. Fellowship Bible Church uses the New King James Versions of the Bible. Every first Sunday of the month, biblical communion is observed. Since Pastor Jack leads student ministries, this paper will be focused on his department and the establishment of a full inclusion ministry for a child with an autism spectrum disorder. Current Children’s Ministry
FBC is recognized for its special interest in children. Their current children’s ministry consists of a nursery, Sunday school, and Children’s church. FBC’s children’s ministry is constantly growing. Since the number of children keeps growing, the church has provided several ministries to compensate for this growth. The nursery consists of infants to two year old children. The nursery is available during Sunday school hour as well as Sunday morning service. Parents should feel safe knowing their children are in the church staff hands, as the staff members are experienced with these age groups.
FBC also has a passion for children and youth. The Sunday school classes that are available for both children and adolescents are tailored to the particular age group for better understanding. Children and Youth Sunday school classes are devoted to helping children and teens grasp better knowledge of the Word, and building a strong relationship with the Lord. Time is spent searching for God’s plan for each person’s life. Classes are often interactive in order to provide a chance for children to build close relationships and encourage fellowship between students.
Another important aspect of the children’s ministry is Children’s Church. Children’s church is for children ages 3 to 3rd grade. The children will be dismissed after the worship service and before the message begins. This is a time for children to receive a message that is more geared to their understanding. During children’s church, children will be taught Bible lessons through arts and crafts as well as movies. Another purpose of children’s church is to ensure that small children are not a distraction to others during the service.
Rationale for Full Inclusion Biblical According to the beliefs of FBC elders, everyone has the right to receive the same biblical message. God sent His son to die for all of mankind and ordered his disciples to carry this message to the ends of the earth. In Gods eyes everyone is equal and should be given the same opportunities to hear His message. This principle is portrayed in Galatians 3:28 (King James Version), “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. There is no difference between people in Gods eyes. This is a very clear order which is also found in God’s Word, Christ states in Matthew 28:19 (KJV), “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. ” God has also equipped those that serve Him with skills or talents to be utilized in sharing the truths of the Word. It is the Holy Spirit within Christians that motivates and enables His people to use these talents for all of mankind.
The church promotes this fact and aims to deliver the message to all despite any disabilities or hindrances. Full inclusion is a common theme found in the Bible. This is evident when Christ was present on the Earth. “Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray and the disciples rebuked them but Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:13-14 KJV). In doing this Jesus showed that His teaching is for all of mankind.
FBC developed a mission statement for its children’s ministry with this in mind. The mission statement is to ensure that each child benefits from the same biblical message and accommodates the different learning patterns of all children including those with special needs. Scientific It is vital that in developing a children’s ministry that includes children with disabilities, the children have an inclusive learning environment. From a scientific perspective, children with autism spectrum disorder benefit positively from full inclusion.
According to a study on educating autistic children, the researcher found, “In order to develop 'best practice', practitioners need to adapt interventions to the unique needs of the individual child, work in partnership with parents and other professionals, create enabling environments and be informed by a developmental approach to learning” (Guldberg, 2010). Inclusion means that there are many support groups that are involved in the child’s life the influence the child. Every person must be aware of the same issues and how to intervene when necessary. They must be equipped to interact therapeutically with the child.
Having patience is absolutely necessary in order to be effective with the child. Inclusion can also be explained by studying all aspects of the child’s disorder in order to be better equipped to teach the child. According to a study on educating children with autism spectrum disorder, “Inclusion can be broadly defined as the process of identifying, understanding and breaking down barriers to participation and belonging, and therefore goes beyond education to cover the total experience of a child or young person on the autism spectrum and his/her family” (Jones, English, Guldberg, Jordan, Richardson & Waltz, 2008).
Gathering as much background information about the child will aid in having a better understanding of how the child responds to others. Those who are not using full inclusion methods for all children may be keeping some children from progressing like the other children. Necessary Key Elements for Full Inclusion As stated before, full inclusion has many different essential aspects. Full inclusion is FBC’s approach to engage all children regardless of learning ability. This is done by accepting volunteers, particularly those with experience or education.
Training and appropriate materials are also acquired to make this possible. For Benjamin Button, a 6 year old child with autism spectrum disorder, these three elements are imperative to his continuation in the classes. FBC aims to have Benjamin fully involved in regular Sunday school classes. Benjamin was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. He has impairments in regards to social interaction, communication, and repetitive behavior. These three aids will decrease the amount of complications that may occur and help guide Benjamin into a smoother shift into this church.
Volunteers FBC will have the obligation of finding skilled members of the church. Not only should these volunteers be skilled, they must also be patient and understanding. They must have a biblical perspective in order to display an encouraging attitude. Volunteers will be the basis for this full inclusion ministry. The volunteers will need to have experience with special needs children. Volunteers may also have educational background in psychology or special education. This also means that each volunteer must be at least 21 years old.
The exception to this age limit is if the volunteer has personal experience living with a child who has autism. The volunteers will need to help Benjamin stay focused and limit the amount of distractions. He will need assistance drawing, using the bathroom, and with staying included in the group. There must be at least 3 trained volunteers on staff when the child is present. This is to ensure that Benjamin and the other children are safe and receiving the same amount of care and attention. Training
Training will be provided by educated staff for interested volunteers. God desires that his believers and his church be fully equipped for any work, ready to meet any situation. This is a truth we get from God’s Word, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 KJV). FBC aims to “fully equip” the volunteers to equip them for this challenging yet rewarding position.
There will be a four week course that volunteers must go through before being authorized to teach in the full inclusion program. The course will be taught every Wednesday night at 6 o’clock and will last an hour. Upon completion of the training the volunteers will have received knowledge on what autism spectrum disorder is, how it affects children in social settings, and how to properly instruct and engage them in the classroom. The training materials provided were donated from a non-profit organization for autistic children.
FBC is ready to take the necessary steps to properly run this full inclusion program for Benjamin and understands the importance of properly equipping the volunteers to do so. Accommodations Success in the school setting for students with an autism spectrum disorder is dependent upon accommodations made in the classroom (Coffey, 2004). With this in mind FBC is taking the steps necessary to provide the proper accommodations for Benjamin. Physical space, organization of the Sunday school lesson, and teaching methods will be carefully accommodated for Benjamin’s specific needs.
Physical space is the first accommodation that will be made and will include: placing Benjamin’s chair away from high movement areas, there will be a bean bag chair in the corner of the room for a quiet retreat, and he will be allowed to arrive and leave early to avoid the crowd. The organization of the Sunday school lesson will have plenty of visuals to keep Benjamin engaged and also a list of the day’s activities will be read to Benjamin to avoid and alleviate any anxiety of him not knowing what’s happening next. The third accommodation will be the teaching methods of the Sunday school teacher.
The volunteer will need to keep the lesson visually interesting and during discussions pass a ball around to know whose turn it is to speak (Coffey, 2004). Keeping Benjamin’s attention is one of the goals of the full inclusion program at FBC. Summary of Autism Spectrum Disorder Definition According to Mash, Wolfe, Parritz, and Troy (2011) ASD is defined as: Autism spectrum disorders or autism are severe developmental disorders characterized by abnormalities in social functioning, language, and communication, and unusual behaviors and interests.
Autism touches every aspect of the child’s interactions with his or her world, involves man parts of the brain, and undermines the traits that make us human; our social responsiveness, ability to communicate, and feelings for other people. (p. 300) Etiology What causes Autism spectrum disorder has still not completely been determined but it’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role. Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with the disorder and studies of people with ASD have found irregularities in several regions of the brain (Gerdts and Bernier, 2011).
Other studies suggest that people with ASD have abnormal levels of serotonin or other neurotransmitters in the brain (Gerdts and Bernier, 2011). These abnormalities suggest that, “ASD could result from the disruption of normal brain development early in fetal development caused by defects in genes that control brain growth and that regulate how brain cells communicate with each other, possibly due to the influence of environmental factors on gene function” (Gerdts and Bernier, 2011). Prevalence
According to National Initiative for Autism: Screening & Assessment (NIASA) “The autism spectrum currently affects between 60 and 100 per 10,000 children under the age of eight” (NIASA, 2003). “ASDs are almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252)” (NIASA, 2003). These statistics indicate that many children have a variation of Autism Spectrum Disorder, which is why research is very important in this area of psychology. Characteristics “Each individual with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is unique and may demonstrate markedly different behaviors and skills” (NIASA, 2003).
Some common ASD characteristics include slower speech development, failure to form social bonds, and the child may also exhibit hypersensitivity to light, noises, touch, smells, and tastes (NIASA, 2003). Other characteristics include: not playing with other children and preferring to be left alone, may have tantrums, obsessive interests in objects or activities, and may display aggression towards others or themselves (NIASA, 2003). Prognosis Autism is not cured and persons retain the disorder all their lives but those with less severe manifestations can become functional adults (Gerdts and Bernier, 2011).
Information on long term prognosis of autism is limited but, outcome is known to be poor for those with an IQ below 50 (Gerdts and Bernier, 2011). Current Research Experts have made remarkable strides in better understanding autism. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Research on ASDs has increased a great deal in recent years and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is part of the larger group of public and private organizations working to better understand ASDs through research” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). Studies are being conducted at all levels of analysis, and experts are beginning to see the interconnections between the underlying biological causes and the cognitive and behavioral manifestations of autistic disorder” (NIASA, 2003). “The next decade will witness further developments, bringing experts closer to a more comprehensive and integrated understanding of autism and despite the exponential growth in basic studies on autism, there has been relatively little research on new treatments and interventions” (NIASA, 2003). Social Dynamics
Whether it’s at school, at work or in social settings, people with autism are often misunderstood. They suffer discrimination, prejudice and isolation. For many, that means a lifetime of exclusion from everyday society. Research shows that awareness of autism is high but there’s a lack of understanding about what it really means to live with autism (Guldberg, 2010). These unfortunate social discriminations can cause autistic children to withdraw and dislike social contact. Treatments There are various forms of treatment for autism. These treatments consist of managing behavior as well as therapies.
According to WebMD (2010), “Behavioral training and management uses positive reinforcement, self-help, and social skills training to improve behavior and communication. There are also specialized therapies. These include speech, occupational, and physical therapy” (WebMD, 2010). These therapies are important aspects of autistic children’s overall treatment because they help achieve appropriate behavior. Language, social skills, communication, coordination, and motor skills are the areas that are focused on in order to aid autistic children in the learning process (WebMD, 2010).
Improving aspects of these skills will ensure that autistic children are learning and progressing from these treatments. Family, Support, and Society Autism spectrum disorder not only affects the child but it also has an effect on family and peers as well. Parents must now place their primary focus on helping their child with ASD, which may put strains on their marriage, other children, work, finances, and personal relationships and responsibilities. Parents can help their family by informing their other children and relatives about autism and the complications it introduces.
Understanding the challenges siblings face and helping them cope, and involving members of the extended family to create a network of help and understanding which is crucial for the family to live a more fulfilling life with their child with ASD. Benjamin Button At age 3 Benjamin Button’s parents noticed some unusual behaviors in their only son. He never spoke and wouldn’t respond to them calling his name and Benjamin would also repeatedly bang his head on the floor or wall when he got disciplined, upset, and sometimes for no reason at all. Potty training was also very unsuccessful.
His parents took note of this behavior and took him to a pediatrician where he was later diagnosed with autistic disorder. Benjamin attended speech therapy for two years before kindergarten. He is now in an Applied Behavior Analysis class at his elementary school. “The ABA class encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative behaviors in order to improve a variety of skills” (Guldberg, 2010). Benjamin has shown improvements in speech over the past three years but he still has trouble recognizing words and drawing letters and telling his parents why he can get suddenly sad or angry.
On a typical day Benjamin has at least two temper tantrums. He understands and follows directions very well and he also has a close connection to loved ones. His parents are very happy with the improvements Benjamin has made and look forward to getting him involved in the Sunday school program at Fellowship Bible Church. Church-Family-School Partnership For continued success Benjamin will need the combined efforts of his family, school, and church. Benjamin’s family, school, and church have established four goals to broaden his educational, spiritual, emotional, and psychological well-being.
IEP Goal - 1 Benjamin will learn to recite his ABCs. Teachers could make home visits to interact with the child one on one in order for Benjamin to have more practice reciting and learning his ABC’s. Although Benjamin’s parents and church volunteers would like him to reach this goal within a month they have decided to remain patient and committed to working with him regardless of how long it takes him to achieve this goal. IEP Goal 2: Spiritual - Benjamin will learn and be able to sing along with his peers in one new Sunday school song a month.
Benjamin has always had a positive response to music. This goal will is tailored to his IEP since he takes interest in music. This will also aid in his socialization skills. IEP Goal – 3 Benjamin will decrease the amount of temper tantrums by 50% in the next three months. As stated before Benjamin typically has two temper tantrums a day. To meet this goal Benjamin will need to decrease his temper tantrums by one daily. IEP Goal – 4 Benjamin to establish a new friendship with one peer a month.
This goal is attainable since there are numerous children in the Sunday school program and at school. This goal could be particularly difficult for him since he has displayed poor social skills and often intimidates his peers. His peers are sometimes intimidated or confused by his behavior and therefore avoid social interaction with Benjamin. Plan for Growth Benjamin’s Parents have attended Fellowship Bible Church for the past ten years. Now that their son’s autism is becoming more and more under control they are excited about introducing him into FBC’s full inclusion Sunday school program.
The Button family is willing and eager to take what steps are necessary and aid in the advancement of this program. The proper steps have been taking for a successful full inclusion program to be integrated in FBC’s Sunday school program and will do nothing but improve as devoted members of the church come alongside the Button family to ensure that. One Year In the next year Fellowship Bible Church aim to advance the Full Inclusion Program in a big way. The short term goal is to acquire skilled volunteers that are qualified to work with a child suffering from autism spectrum disorder.
The one year goal for FBC’s full inclusion Sunday school program is to expand the ministry by adding at five children suffering from a mental disability. Advertising the churches special needs mission statement to the community and prospective volunteers with the intent of acquiring qualified staff and children with disabilities. Five Years By the grace of God Fellowship Bible Church’s will be prospering and successful in the next five years. FBS’s five year plan for the Sunday school full inclusion program is to have an established ministry that is trusted by the church and community.
FBC aims to achieve these goals by obtaining qualified volunteers and being proactive in the community to spread the news of the program in order to increase the number of children with disabilities in the program Conclusion The success of Fellowship Bible’s full inclusion Sunday school program will be established by combining efforts of the Button family, the church, and the community. This full inclusion program is intended to give Benjamin the opportunity to be engaged in the word with his peers. This is done by giving him a comfortable setting that will reduce the symptoms of his disorder.
FBC plans to develop this program by recruiting the necessary volunteers. Trainings and accommodations will be incorporated in order to ensure quality care from the volunteers. Family support in combination with a variety of treatments and goals is an all-inclusive plan for Benjamin. The goal of this plan is to provide a full inclusion program that meets the needs of each child. FBC has set up a one year and a five year plan to execute this program to its full potential. References Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2011).
Autism spectrum disorders: Research. Atlanta, GA http://www. cdc. gov/ncbddd/autism/research. html Coffey, K. M. , & Obringer, S. , (2004). A case study on autism: School accommodations and inclusive settings. Education, 124(4), 632-639. Fellowship Bible Church, (2013) About fellowship bible church. Samurai Virtual Tours. http://aboutfbc. org/ Gerdts, J. , & Bernier, R. , (2011). The broader autism phenotype and its implications on the etiology and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. Autism Research & Treatment, 1-19. oi:10. 1155/2011/545901 Guldberg, K. , (2010). Educating children on the autism spectrum: Preconditions for inclusion and notions of 'best autism practice' in the early years. British Journal of Special Education, 37(4), 168-174. doi:10. 1111/j. 1467-8578. 2010. 00482. x Jones, G. , English, A. , Guldberg, K. , Jordan, R. , Richardson, P. & Waltz, M. , (2008). Educational provision for children and young people with autism spectrum disorders living in England: A review of current practice, issues and challenges, Autism Education Trust.
Jones, G. & Guldberg Mash, E. J. , Wolfe, D. A. , Parritz, R. H. , & Troy, M. F. , (2011). Exceptional child psychology – Liberty University. Bellmont, CA: Cengage. [CUSTOM] NIASA (National Initiative for Autism: Screening & Assessment), (2003). National autism plan for children, the NIASA guidelines. London: National Autistic Society. WebMD, (2010). Autism spectrum disorders health center, Autism - Treatment overview. Healthwise. http://www. webmd. com/brain/autism/autism-treatment-overview
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