Reaching out at Home: Special Needs Ministry
It can be a disheartening truth that parents, who would otherwise involve themselves in a church community, often disconnect. Community activities, such as attending church services, can present a number of barriers to participation. For example, in most cases, children’s ministries are ill equipped to teach, or even to accommodate, children with special needs. Staffs typically consist of volunteers with very inconsistent experience and levels of training, rarely including strategies for children with autism.
The most effective manner for us to serve our special needs students was to provide the church with regularly-scheduled Behavioral Therapists.
For children with significant behavioral challenges and/or very impaired communication skills, those barriers can become insurmountable. Participation with all large-group activities may not be appropriate, and alternative spaces, materials, and well-trained instructors may not be available.
Integrated Behavioral Solutions has been providing intensive staffing and services for children with special needs at Christian Church Buckhead since 2007. While we initially focused on training rotating groups of volunteers, it eventually became evident that the most effective manner for us to serve our special needs students was to provide the church with regularly-scheduled Behavioral Therapists.
Currently, IBS schedules three Behavioral Therapists every Sunday during the 9:30 service. Additionally, there are three Board Certified Behavior Analysts who supervise the provision of those services.
Reaching out around the World: Partnering with Schools
Integrated Behavioral Solutions has provided pro bono ABA consultative services to schools outside our community, including Þjálfunarsetur (which, roughly translated, means “training center”) at Barnaskóli Hjallastefnunnar í Garðabæ (which means Hjallastefnan’s elementary school in Garðabæ), just outside of Reykjavík, Iceland.
At no cost to the school, we provided student subscriptions to Catalyst and regular clinical team meetings to review student performance and adjust strategies, if needed. Using Catalyst allows us to (1) directly observe the implementation of intervention related to targeted skills and behavior reduction targets (using Catalyst videos recorded from an iPad); (2) review performance data; (3) conduct clinical team meetings (using video conferencing) to review observations and data analyses and discuss programming with team; and (4) make adjustments to the program based on the observations, data, and team meeting.
Partnering with Our Communities
Serving is the best way to keep from becoming the center of our own world. It reminds us that we share in the full human story, and not just in the story we’re living as individuals. Where there is an absence of charity and grace, there is a surplus of self-centeredness and greed. Serving reshapes us into people who see others differently, as partners in life and community, and for whom we have been called to assist.
However, serving others is behavioral, not theoretical. It takes intentionality, time, and humility. These are not accidental, but purposeful endeavors. As a company, we want to create a culture of, and mechanism for, service to all those in need in our communities.
Some of our recent service day activities have included the Atlanta Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity and Smart Lunch Smart Kid.