Listen: “I go round parishes helping children with autism”

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Gisele Pisani goes around local parishes helping children with autism with their religious doctrine.

Ms Pisani told Newsbook.com.mt that she is currently preparing a handbook to help catechists work with children with autism. She represents the Curia in the Kunsill Konsultattiv dwar l-Awtiżmu of which she is a member.

When asked about the recent case where a girl was not given her First Holy Communion certificate because she did not receive the Holy Eucharist, Ms Pisani replied that she was not involved in the particular case but she feels that there were a number of misunderstandings from all parties involved. She said that she believed that this was an isolated case.

How does one teach children with autism?

She explained that children with autism learn through visualisation and suggests using flash cards with pictures of things that children actually experience. She gave the example of the altar and explained that a child with autism would need to see a photograph of the altar from the actual church in which s/he would be practising their religious rites.

Rehearse from way before

Ms Pisani advises parents to allow the children to familiarise themselves with, and even wear, their First Holy Communion garments before the actual ceremony. Furthermore, parents should see that instruction is started earlier than generally indicated. Confirmation then poses a number of new issues, as the children will also be dealing with puberty during that period.

Seminarians need more instruction

Ms Pisani explained that the one solitary lesson on autism which seminarians are offered during their final year at university is not enough.

Finally, Ms Pisani urged LSEs to offer their services voluntarily after work.