St John’s Anglican Church in Bairnsdale has been working with Scope to ensure the church community understands the needs of people with disabilities. People with autism and little or no speech indicated that they wanted to attend services but found the experience difficult and overwhelming. The Rector of St John’s, Rev Tony Wicking, and Ms Von Dubbeld, a youth volunteer, developed a range of ideas and supports the church could use. Von researched Churches around the world for ideas around modifying services and supporting people with additional needs. From here Von began planning and developing ideas which resulted in two information days and a monthly “in touch” service.
The information days (one in May and one in October) focussed on running information sessions across a range of topics. This was supported by the Regional Communication Service and the Autism Case Consultancy position. Session provided a range of different workshops covering topics such as “what is autism”, sensory processing, communication strategies and social skills. This was advertised across the area including local radio with anyone from the public welcome. Both days had great attendance with over 80 people attending overall; the group included teachers, day service staff, parents and interested church members.
The monthly “in-touch” service began in May 2015, and attendance continues to grow. The service has been changed to ensure that the language is simplified and that the service provides experiences in different senses. There has been an attempt to focus on one experience at a time, for example, baking bread together or crushing grapes. They have also changed seating ensuring people can sit how they like and move as they need. Visual pictures are used to show the progression of the service and a social story to familiarise people.
– Gippsland Regional Communication Service