I know some amazing people: Meet Carlyle King

Everyone, please meet my friend, Carlyle King:

Carlyle has been married to his lovely wife, Kristen, for nine years.

They’re the proud parents of a fabulous kindergartener.

Carlyle has a master’s degree in education, with an emphasis on educational technology. He is currently an E-Learning Systems Manager at a university in Idaho.

In his spare time, Carlyle enjoys riding motorcycles, spending time with his family and friends, and participating in his local church.

And, by the way…Carlyle has Asperger’s Syndrome.

Carlyle and I became acquainted through the Key Ministry facebook page. He contacted us to tell us a little bit about his desire to raise awareness about autism and other disabilities in his church. Here is a bit of Carlyle’s story, in his own words:

Thanks for being willing to help. I’ve had a pretty tough time finding a church in which I fit, and I’ve decided to try a different approach: setting up a ministry that helps people fit.
To give you an idea of who you are working with, I’m 37 and was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at 35. I have a master’s in education and I work for a Christian university. I’m also the president of a motorcycle ministry and I’ve organized an annual motorcycle ride for autism here. Needless to say, I’m determined and willing to do the work needed.

You know…
I’m an example of what happens when family and church just give up on a child. They decided I was just a bad kid. I was often told by my dad and others that I was not wanted around. I left my parents’ church as a teenager, but (then) was asked to leave the church I chose to go to.

I truly believed I was unlovable and often prayed that God would just kill me and get it over with. Before my wife, I never had any real friends. I’ve tried going to many churches, but I have often been told by people that they didn’t like being around me. I got into motorcycle ministry thinking that other Christian motorcyclists would accept me, but they turned their backs on me. It was the real bikers that befriended me.

I’m honestly worried about how I’ll handle all this

but I’m going to keep going…

 I’m here to right some wrongs and to do my best to ensure that no other child experiences what I have.

I want (the Church) to know that we are here…

and the first step in accomplishing cultural change is creating awareness of the need for it.
I just worry that I’m not good for this…

it just needs to be done and I don’t see anyone else doing it.

Stay tuned to find out how Carlyle planned for his inclusion ministry and what happened on the very first Sunday…here is a preview, straight from Carlyle:

“Not only did God open the door, but He rolled out the red carpet.”

Praising God for my friend Carlyle!

Read Carlyle’s blog here.

Autism Awareness: I know some amazing people {who happen to have autism}

As you know, yesterday was Autism Awareness Day.

I plan to stretch out this day into the next week or so, because I have several folks to introduce to you…amazing folks who happen to have autism.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Jonathan. I wrote about him late last autumn, but wanted to re-post, because he is just that awesome!

My post from October:

Last week, I had the great privilege to travel to Dallas, TX and spend the day at the offices of Insight for Living. My colleagues knew that I was pretty nervous about this trip; there were so many “moving parts” to organizing the whole day, and I wanted everything to fall into place! However, my worry was needless, and our team enjoyed a fabulous time with the Insight for Living “family.” I’m excited to introduce you to them over the next couple of weeks.

Today I want to introduce you to Jonathan, who is the 14 year-old son of Colleen Swindoll-Thompson, and the grandson of Chuck and Cynthia Swindoll. Jonathan will be featured as a speaker for Inclusion Fusion, and he has much insight and wisdom to share about the Church’s role in soothing broken hearts.

Jonathan has been “labeled” with complicated diagnoses as he has grown up. While these diagnoses help his teachers, therapists and family understand him and his needs, the label that most aptly describes him is “Child of the King.” This is a label he wears proudly, and because of this, he has much to teach.

I have “known” Jonathan for several years, as Colleen and I have been friends and colleagues, sharing our kids’ triumphs and struggles. Until our trip to Dallas, however, I had never actually met him. When he rounded the corner in the Insight offices, I knew right away that this long-anticipated moment had arrived.

“Jonathan!” I said. “I’m so glad to finally meet you. I’m Katie.”

His bespectacled eyes regarded me, and he sized me up.

“We’re equal,” he said solemnly.

I smiled. “We are.” I slipped off my heels and said, “And now we’re even more equal!” He compared his height to mine, smiled and nodded and then off he went to find a spot to read.

We’re equal.

During our day at IFL, we adults talked a lot about God, suffering, prayer and theology. The discussions were enriching, and both stretched and comforted me. However, nothing that was said came close to inspiring me the way Jonathan’s statement did. In two words, he wrapped up 1 Corinthians 12 in a delightfully boyish and joyful package.

We’re equal. All of us…regardless of size or diagnosis or strengths or needs…and we’re all necessary to what God has planned for the Church.

If you’d like to hear more about Jonathan, click over to Steve’s blog to listen to Chuck Swindoll and Colleen Swindoll-Thompson discuss how Jonathan has blessed their family and enriched their faith.

Equally yours~


Proactive Partnering: Including the “Most Valuable Player”

Last week, we talked a little bit about proactive strategies to enhance communication between parents and church staff.  When adults put their heads together, great things usually happen. However, we need to be sure we include the “most valuable player” in all of this: the student!

But wait!” you might be saying, “We need to leave the decision-making up to the adults. After all, they know best!”

There’s truth to that statement; adults do have wisdom and perspective when it comes to educational or church planning. However, when we include the student, we accomplish some important things:

  • We encourage the student to understand him/herself better
  • The student (hopefully!) learns that pastors and teachers are approachable and available.
  • The student may have more “buy-in” to the programs and classes because he/she feels a measure of participation and control in the planning.

When we include students, we also help to lay a foundation for life-long spiritual growth. Each of the students in our programs and families has unique and special talents and strengths. Part of our jobs as parents, pastors and teachers involves helping kids understand and appreciate their own strengths so they can use them for the Kingdom. In addition, we can help students know their areas of weakness or need; we can then demonstrate support and encouragement in those areas. In short, we need to teach kids that EVERY member of the Body is useful and necessary!

So, how can we accomplish this? Children and youth–with or without disabilities– have varying levels of ability to understand and communicate their strengths and needs. However, the adults in the child’s life can ease the process by creating meaningful opportunities for the child to interact with the pastors or teachers. Some ideas:

  • Help the child to create a picture of him/herself (or, depending on the child’s skill level, create a piece of art rather than a self-portrait)
  • Take a picture of the student and help the student to send it via email to the church staff or teacher, with a list of the child’s strengths/needs or with a note of introduction.
  • Consider using some or all of the questions on this template for students who can dictate answers or write them independently: Let Me Introduce Myself

Bear in mind: This is not appropriate for all students and all situations…and that’s okay. As parents, we don’t want to overwhelm church staff and volunteers with information, nor do we want to withhold information. In addition, we don’t want to press children or youth into disclosing needs in a way that would embarrass them or deter their participation. This is, however, an excellent opportunity to model communication about our own strengths and needs, with honesty and humility; kids will often follow our lead if we can do this in healthy and productive ways.

What ideas do YOU have for including students in proactive communication? Tell me here or leave a comment below.

Power to the (little) people!

Stay tuned: JAM Review, training opportunities, and a bit of fun