In August, the Adventist Church for the states of Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo, and Minas Gerais released a guide for teachers to work with autistic children in Sabbath School. The material, which will be available in print and free of charge to churches in the southeast region in 2023, is the first to be produced by the church in Brazil and covers content that will reach children ages 0–12.
The guide provides practical suggestions for dealing with children and helping them in the process of learning about God's love. The content selected ten topics about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and worked out tips for teachers to conduct the process with the little ones and their parents.
Still part of the content is a lecture that can be accessed through a QR code contained in the book and training that will take place over the next year during quarterly events at the church.
Suzete Águas, the organizer of the project and one of the authors, as well as a teacher, points out that the goal is to get children to interact and learn more deeply about God. "The idea is to prevent them from being afraid and help them to have confidence, [prompting] them go to church to effectively learn about biblical values and to make a connection with heaven," explains Águas, who is leader of the Adventist Church's Children and Adolescent Ministries for Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo, and Minas Gerais. She also holds a PhD in Developmental Disorders from Mackenzie Presbyterian University.
Besides Dr. Águas, the content was authored by Edna Rosa Correia Neves, a PhD in School Psychology from the University of São Paulo, and Professor Aline França, a psychopedagogue with a Master’s degree in Diversity and Inclusion. The support comes from the Ministry of Children and Adolescents of the Adventist Church in South America, through Professor Gláucia Korkischko. The ten leaders of the same areas from the states of Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo, and Minas Gerais are also collaborating.
The suggestions presented in the teachers' guide are guidelines that can promote a more welcoming feeling in students and, at the same time, enhance cognitive development. Check out some practical suggestions given in the book:
- Have objective communication, preferably illustrate the intended goal using posters or drawings.
- Avoid activities that are too long.
- Adapt the language of the lesson to short, quiet activities.
- Propose activities based on the interest of the students.
- Explore times or situations when children can do hands-on, concrete activities.
- Explore everyday life.
- Propose small, diversified tasks (activities), but always with short deadlines for execution.
- Use sensory approaches.
- Work with positive reinforcement; always encourage children to participate and complete the proposed activities.
- Propose games and play to increase the engagement and involvement of children in learning activities.