Take this, all of you, and Eat of it.

This was the vision statement that Eagle Scout candidate Brendan Rizzo used to guide, with the assistance of his parents David and Mercedes, the development of a set of adaptive materials to assist his sister, Danielle, in preparing to receive her First Communion in the Roman Catholic faith tradition. Danielle, a person in the autism spectrum population, needed adapted instruction in order to meet basic eligibility guidelines. In my opinion, the kit could readily be used by other Christian worship traditions that include the reception of Communion/Eucharist.

This was the vision statement that Eagle Scout candidate Brendan Rizzo used to guide, with the assistance of his parents David and Mercedes, the development of a set of adaptive materials to assist his sister, Danielle, in preparing to receive her First Communion in the Roman Catholic faith tradition. Danielle, a person in the autism spectrum population, needed adapted instruction in order to meet basic eligibility guidelines. In my opinion, the kit could readily be used by other Christian worship traditions that include the reception of Communion/Eucharist. This project has developed into a kit published by the Loyola Press in Chicago titled, “a href=”http://www.loyolapress.com/adaptive-first-eucharist-preparation-kit.htm”>Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit: For Children with Autism and Other Special Needs” (ISBN 978-0-8294-3580-1; $59.99; http://www.loyolapress.com). As I was writing this product description, I received a concise review of these materials published in the April-June 2012 Journal of Religion, Disability, and Health by Steven Swank, which I recommend to interested readers. I particularly recommend going to the Loyola Press URL listed above as it includes a thorough product description of the kit’s components, a Powerpoint describing how the kit was developed, and a video featuring the Rizzo family as they discuss the project and the finished product. Danielle’s inclusion in the video is particularly inspiring and informative.

Since the review and the links above describe the components so thoroughly I have chosen to focus on the pragmatic and educational attributes of the materials as well as making some suggestions for possible adaptations as might be necessary. The materials include thick, soft foam backings and laminated coverings throughout, which is helpful in terms of durability. Although PECS and social stories methodologies are part of the overall construction of the materials, it should be noted that the symbols for various actions and objects are not exactly the same as in the PECS system. Some systematic instruction might be needed to assist those persons prone to stimulus overselectivity. Following the basic guidelines of working within the acquisition, fluency, maintenance, and generalization sequence of instruction usually recommended for such populations should allow, over time, for persons to generalize their understanding of the symbols. Since the foam backed sequence cards have matching pictures in the spaces in which the cards are placed (e.g. “How to Receive Communion”), instructors may wish to create blank cards to place inside the spaces to ensure that candidates are truly understanding the sequence of activities rather than just matching the pictures visually, which tends to be relatively easy for persons within the spectrum. In addition, although the materials are described as being appropriate from ages 3 to adult, the symbols used tend to be geared towards the youngest students in this age range. Instructors wishing to follow the principle of using age appropriate materials for older students with disabilities might find it easier to use PECS stimulus cards or create cards that more closely follow that guideline. For brevity’s sake, I have used some specialized terms in this last paragraph. Please feel free to contact me at DE-Healy@wiu.edu should you need some followup information or if I can be of any help to you in any way.

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