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First Communion Preparation for Kids with Autism (and Other Special Needs)

First Communion Preparation and Printable Patterns eBook
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I was recently contacted by Loyola Press to review the First Communion kit that they have available – Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit (which has a subtitle of: For Children with Autism and Other Special Needs). The people at Loyola Press had read about my own personal experience with having a child with Autism making his First Holy Communion, and they knew it held a special place in my heart.Adaptive First Communion Preparation Kit for Children with Special Needs

I agreed to review the product, knowing that I didn’t personal have a need for it anymore, but just because I knew the worry of preparing for something so sacred while thinking things like, “What if he refuses?” or “What if he doesn’t like the taste and spits it out?”  Those worries can change what is supposed to be such a beautiful day into a day of worry.

I will admit that I didn’t really have any expectations about the kit.  Not that I expected it to be bad, I just didn’t have a strong feeling either way.  However, when I opened it and started looking through it — I loved it! And, mind you, that’s not just me as a Mom of someone with Autism (especially since my son is very high functioning), but it was me as someone with a masters degree in special education and having worked with kids with more needs than my own.  As a matter of fact, I had to call Eric over and was excited to show off the whole kit to him too.

From the back of the box:

It can be difficult for children with autism and other special needs to meet USCCB Eucharist requirements for individuals with disabilities – to distinguish the Holy Eucharist from ordinary food and to receive Eucharist reverently.

The learning tools in this kit have been used successfully by many children to enter fully into the faith experience and become prepared to receive the Eucharist.”

This kit definitely meets all of those intentions!  It includes the following cards or books: a helper guide, My Picture Missal, Mass Cards, Bless Yourself, Who is Jesus?, Communion is Not the Same as Food, How to Receive Communion, I Receive Communion, and a backpack.

All of these items are extremely friendly for children with special needs preparing for First Communion. Really, I also thought that most of this kit would be fabulous for small children, as not everything focuses on First Communion.  (The pieces that I thought would be especially good for small children would be Who is Jesus?, My Picture Missal, and Bless Yourself.

The items in this kit are very hands on, and make a lot of use of PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System).  (PECS for First Communion?  Awesome!)

I really loved the My Picture Missal, as it has the order of the Mass in PECS, having what we do on the page (in picture form) with whether we sit, stand, or kneel next to it.  This, along with several of the other parts of the kit, make it perfect for small children or those with special needs (even adults with lower cognitive function). In fact, I think many of the parts of this kit make it perfect for someone with special needs (especially someone who normally uses PECS) even if they are unable to receive Holy Communion.

You can read more about each element in the Adaptive First Communion Kit on Loyola Press’ website.

I was really impressed with the thought that went into this kit. It brings up several things that might be of concern to kids with Autism about Communion, that I might not have thought of.  In the removable piece “How to Take Communion” board, one of the items is standing in line, for example.

In the  I Receive Communion book, there were two things that I really loved that showed a lot of thought.  One is that it tells the children that sometimes the priest gives Communion, and sometimes it is a man or a woman, and then follows that up with “It’s OK.  It is still Jesus.”  The very next page also acknowledges what I think a lot of parents with kids with Autism (and some other special needs) worry about, “Sometimes I don’t like the taste.”  But, then the next page says, “But I eat it all up.”

I never imagined that this review would end up sounding so much like gushing about the kit, but really – I can’t help it.  This is well made, and I think it can be a blessing to so many families. The only downfall, perhaps, is that the kit currently costs $59.99, with discounts for more kits being bought.  However, if this is something your child really needs, you might be able to ask your parish if they would purchase a kit (or multiple kits at a discount) for use by their religious education department.  I will add, however, that I don’t think the pricing is out of line.  This is a well made kit, and I was very impressed with it.

Thank you so much to Loyola Press for sending me a copy to review, and also for taking the time to mass produce this kit, as I know it something that is needed by so many families.

Disclosure: I received this kit at no cost from Loyola Press, and was not otherwise compensated.  (After reviewing the kit, I donated it to my parish.)   All opinions are my own.

Need more information on preparing for First Communion?  From banners to homemade dresses, from do it yourself themed First Communion cakes to learning ideas – check out the First Communion Resource Page!



Comments

  1. Wow, what a great find. I’m going to share it with my Catholic Aspergers yahoo group and order it for use in my 2nd grade sacrament class (my high functioning son is in my class this year also, but I think a couple other children could benefit from it). Don’t know if there is an Adaptive First Reconciliation one by chance…??? Thanks so much!

    • That is such a fabulous suggestion, Denise! I will pass it along to Loyola Press. I know that was certainly an experience that we had to do a lot of prep for. (My son kept saying, “I don’t want him to think I’m a bad boy,” about the priest.)

      That’s great that there is a Yahoo group like that! My son has Aspergers.

  2. Wow! This looks like such and awesome thing! My son could really use something like this, but you are right, the cost is a bit prohibitive. Do you have any idea if it will be aligned to the new Mass changes that are beginning this year?

  3. That is REALLY cool!! I’m sure some grandparents or relatives would be willing to spring for the kit, I am seriously looking at getting it for my son. I’m glad to read this review!

  4. We started using these materials and were thrilled that there was something available like this. It may not be absolutely perfect and all children require their own modifications, but the parents were so happy that there was a method to working on something that was so important for them.

  5. I don’t think it’s necessary to make a kit instead offer a class to children with Autism. I feel this is another way to keep a child with special needs out of the way, why treat them any different?

    • The kit is meant to help those who are helping to instruct a child with Autism or other developmental delays. Many of the kits are being purchased by churches to help them know how to best serve/instruct those children. While I know some families are probably buying them to use on their own, I know that our parish bought a kit in order to use it as part of the program, should any child need it. I have a child with Autism (though he’s high functioning and really does not have a need for this type of extra instruction) and I have a masters in special education, please know that I would not advocate for something that I felt was pushing children with special needs away in a corner somewhere. This kit is really great and is meant to help kids who might otherwise be denied the sacraments by some parishes on the grounds that they don’t understand what it means or the like. It’s a way for those children who lack some communication skills that other kids of this general age likely have to be able to understand the process (and show that they understand it) at a level that meets them where they are.

      I have heard of some larger places being able to offer classes specifically to children with Autism and I think that’s great. But, the majority of parish, I imagine, don’t have enough children with Autism all preparing for these sacraments to make up a class worth.

      I’m very sensitive to exclusionary things, and I can honestly say that after reviewing it, it’s just not that way. I’m sure that some parishes could misuse it and hand it to a parent and say, “Use this with your kid and let us know when you’re done,” but that is at no fault to the kit.

  6. Pamela Baker says:

    I have been teaching Rel Ed for Special Ed student for many years. This year I have 2 making their First Communion. One little boy is autistic and the little girl has CDLS (which is a genetic disease).
    I just receive the Kit for First Communion and one for Confirmation (last year I had 4 students making Confirmation) wish I had the kit then. I used the Communion one the other day. They were fascinated with the Sign of the Cross board. Which they were able to follow and bless themselves. I am very impressed with the Kit and look forward to using the other tools available within the kit. I recommend it being used with other Communion packets I have for Special Ed students.

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