Our first workshop

Dearest readers,

Today was the first (of many to come it seems) 'Attentiveness to Autism' workshop that I run co jointly with my minister, Pru. I honestly have to say last night I had no idea how it would go given that although I had prepared for it, I hadn't had time to get stressed or worried or anxious about it (and probably for the best!) We had sorted everything like the projector and the room set up the night before at the venue, which was away from our home church and finalised everything pretty much.

I have to admit, neither of us thought it would go as well as it did today. We had planned material and a rough order, but as we were planning a workshop in a tutorial style we didn't have planned to stand at the front and lecture - that's not really my style anyway, I'm far too laid back; plus I strongly felt I didn't want us to stand up in a position of authority as none of us is truly an expert on autism (although I did enjoy using a pointer and a clicker!) We were and are all there to learn from each other and no one person is more important than another in the group.

The material went down really well and allowed the opening up for more questions in the last two sessions. Loads of brilliant points were discussed and elaborated on. The small size of the group allowed everyone to contribute if they wished in an informal manner which worked amazingly good. Our material was very much focussed on autism, faith and the church :- an area that there is remarkably very little research or input of any kind into. We started with a 'whistle stop' tour of getting everybody up to scratch with the main topic at hand: autism. What is it? What is the prevalence? Gender differences? Other key points were covered too in a more lecture style format. We then discussed the subject of 'differing perceptions': what does this mean? How can it be broken down? What does this have to do with church? How does it impact day-to-day living and choices? These questions were in essence what we covered. We completed after lunch with discussing thoughts and reflections from the day, who we as a group felt needed to next hear and experience the workshop and how 'autism friendly' could benefit many more groups other than solely the autistic community.

My view is that these style and content of workshops are desperately needed in the church. One member of our group today said similar workshops should be as compulsory as safeguarding
workshops. I wrote below as my opening statement:

Why am I here?... To open the church up, as we are told by Jesus the church isn’t the building, but the people in it. I am passionate about accessibility and autism and encouraging growth. Even as an autistic individual myself I still have so much to learn.
I used to hate being autistic and I was always told God made me this way for a reason. But as I have started to accept myself and accept love from God, I have come to realise I am not alone in some things and there is so much we can do to open up accessibility to faith.
Jesus hung around with all sorts of undesirables and didn’t shut people out the church and I want to make the church a choice rather than a no for people with autism and other hidden disabilities.
I also feel part of why we as a team are doing this is to provide something unique; there are a multitude of people that do autism trainings and workshops, but do any of them mould them to this niche market? Church is one of the few places where people of all walks of life are thrown into a melting pot and a true 'comprehensive' nature can be seen. Thus we should not all be expected to be the same, and an acceptance of diversity needs to be addressed.

As far as future projects go, we will be repeating this workshop for various other groups of people within the Methodist that we have identified as in need of this. I have also begun a conversation with a colleague from work about also replicating this in the Quaker meeting house in Canterbury she attends. Finally I also hope to be speaking at a support group meeting for social workers in my county in the new year!

Take care and until next,


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