President’s Greeting


I want to take this time to introduce myself, Neil Cudney, as the President of the Religion and Spirituality Division for the next two years, as well, update you on some of the current work.

One behalf of the division executive committee, I invite you to get acquainted with the division and encourage you to participate in the upcoming AAIDD June conference, and our post-conference Division day on June 29th 2017.

The focus of our day will be the new Home and Community Based Services regulations in the USA and the AODA in Canada, two pieces of government legislation that expect service providers to support faith and culture choices of persons with disabilities. It will be an important day of presentations and discussion.  We are making arrangements so that participants will be able to join online.  We would love to have you there in person but understand that distance and costs are a reality.  By creating an online option, we hope that many of our members will join the day.

We have updated the division’s website to increase accessibility and engagement. Please let us know if you have any ideas you would like to see included. You can also follow along with the division on Facebook ( or Twitter (@aaiddreligion).

We want to remind you of a great resource and encourage you to subscribe to the Journal of Disability and Religion.  There you will find a wide array of articles addressing spirituality in the lives of persons with disabilities.  The articles are from all over the globe and represent the various perspectives of spirituality. You will find a link to the journal on the division website.  Attached you will find a sample article.

The Division also offers a professional certification program.  It is a great opportunity for those who have, as part of their responsibilities, the mandate to encourage, instruct and lead spiritual supports in their agency or faith community.  It is a guided course of study and research that will deepen understanding and engagement.  Upon successful completion, the Division grants and endorses that the person has met the requirements and expectations of the Certificate.

One of our hopes for the division is that it would become a place of meeting and collaboration for anyone who is invested in promoting the spiritual hopes, dreams and desires of persons with disabilities.         

Thank your for being a member of this Division, and we hope to be able to support, encourage and engage you in this important work.  You can help us in two ways.

  1. Considering coming yourself, or identifying a person within your organization to attend.
  2. Help us to spread the word and encourage others to become a part of the Division?

If you have any questions, comments or thoughts regarding the division, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Yours, Dr Neil Cudney, President

Celebrating Bob Perske

bob_perskeToday we take a moment to celebrate the life of Robert (Bob) Perske (1927-2016), long time member of the Religion & Spirituality Division of the AAIDD. Early in his career, Bob served as a chaplain at Kansas Neurological Institute, an institution for 250 children and youth with intellectual disabilities.  After pastoring there for eleven years, he continued to live a lifetime of writing and advocacy for people with disabilities, especially as they faced courts and legal processes. Where people with IDD may confess to crimes they did not commit simply because they wish to make the police or others happy, Bob tirelessly fought for their rights in his actions and writing.

You can read many of Bob’s articles over at his website, The AAIDD will be offering a special pre-conference workshop on living his legacy forward before the upcoming conference. You can read a tribute from the AAIDD here. A striking quote from this tribute reflects on Bob’s constant reminder that human dignity involves risk. All too often, caregivers and service organizations have “clever ways of building the avoidance of risk into the lives” of people with IDD. Bob drew attention to these practices that stifled their opportunities for personal growth, observing that there can be a “dehumanizing indignity in safety.”

Communitas EST recently released a retrospective newsletter following a life celebration for Bob in Darien, CT – his home for 40 years. We have been given permission to post that newsletter here, which I encourage you to take a look at.

Click here to download the newsletter – “Celebrating Bob Perske!!”

2017 Call for Nominations – Henri J.M. Nouwen Award

Nominations due by Friday, February 10, 2017

The Religion and Spirituality Division of AAIDD is proud to announce that we are now accepting nominations for the 2017 Henri J.M. Nouwen Award recipient. Nominees are people who reflect the compassion, commitment, ministry and servanthood that
values and esteems people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Award will be presented at the 2017 AAIDD Annual Conference in Hartford, CT, June 26-29.

To learn more about the nomination process or to submit a nomination, click here.

Benjamin T. Conner receives the Henri J. M. Nouwen Award from Anne Masters

Important Announcement! Call for Nominations for the Henri J.M. Nouwen Award

Due date for all nominations is January 31, 2016

Download a flyer with this information here

Dear Religion and Spirituality Division Members

Do you know the next Henri J.M. Nouwen Award recipient?

The Religion and Spirituality Division of AAIDD is proud to announce that we are now accepting nominations for the 2015 Henri J.M. Nouwen Award recipient.

Continue reading “Important Announcement! Call for Nominations for the Henri J.M. Nouwen Award”

Member Spotlight: The Rev. Rosemarie Newberry

The Rev. Rosemarie Newberry is one of the Division’s recently certified Spiritual Supports Professionals and also the Division’s representative to the Congress on Ministries in Specialized Settings (COMMISS), a collaborative network bringing pastoral care and counseling networks, faith groups that endorse chaplains, and others.

Continue reading “Member Spotlight: The Rev. Rosemarie Newberry”

2014 CMS Regulations, Religion and Spirituality: A preview of our Panel Presentation at the Louisville Conference

by Deborah Fisher, Psy.D., Strategic Initiatives Consultant to the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) released new regulations governing Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers in 2014. These represent an important shift in the services delivery model. Focused now on Person-Directed Outcomes, these regulations reflect the collective legislative and judicial wisdom of the ADA and Olmstead decision.

Continue reading “2014 CMS Regulations, Religion and Spirituality: A preview of our Panel Presentation at the Louisville Conference”

Barbara J. Newman is the Henri J. Nouwen Award Honoree

The Executive Committee of the Religion and Spirituality Division had a wonderful problem on our hands. For the first time that any of us could remember, we had more than one nominee for the Henri J. Nouwen Award! Five tremendously talented and passionate people were nominated and each one is a role model who inspires others in so many ways. How fortunate our faith communities are to have such devoted and committed individuals serving them in a variety of capacities.

Continue reading “Barbara J. Newman is the Henri J. Nouwen Award Honoree”