By Carol Race, STL, Eagle Bend, Minnesota
As a parent of two autistic children, as a theologian with an STL from Fribourg University, and as someone who has taught religious education classes for more than 20 years, I find this an excellent and indispensable resource. This book begins with powerful biblical imagery which underlines the Christian imperative to include ALL children in our faith, something which often has not been done. Barone understands clearly the importance to the child, to the family, and to the community of including ALL children in faith formation, and that this is truly at the very roots of what it means to be Christian. Barone does not leave one alone, then, but gives a precise and well-guided tour of just how to include children with neurological differences into faith-formation activities which in turn are meaningful not only to the special-needs child but also to all neurotypical children. Classes taught in the way that Barone suggests will be far more meaningful to all of the students than traditional or typical classroom instruction. This is a must-read book for all DRE's, pastors, youth ministers, and truly anyone who works with children, whether those children are diagnosed with neurological differences or not.
By Leslie Phillips, VP Katy Autism Support Group, Family to Family Network, Disability Leadership Network Training Coordinator
Not long ago, my nine-year-old son with autism saw a wall covered with crosses. He said, "Mommy, look at all the plus signs!" My heart fell, because I knew he didn't recognize these as a religious symbol because we had not participated in our faith community for so long. Unfortunately, many people in faith communities—pastors and youth ministers included—seem to feel that a child who has a disability that manifests in behavior can leave their disability at the door. Their disability is often interpreted as a result of poor parenting or lack of reverence. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
In his book, Barone doesn't just characterize the problem, he offers concrete strategies to use when teaching youth with neurological disorders. He also reminds us of what is truly important—the learning outcome. Punitive, top-down approaches to classroom management and discipline don't just stress out students (and, ultimately, instructors as well), they also undermine learning. His discussion of discipline and discipleship should be a powerful lesson to all of us as he examines how Jesus taught his followers. Families of children with disabilities desperately need the support of their faith communities. This book is a valuable resource to help achieve that goal.
By Bryant Shaw, PhD, child clinical psychologist, Houston, Texas
Barone's daring, poignant book A Place for All challenges us as educators, professionals, parents, citizens, and spiritual beings to look beyond our traditional ideas about the place and role of the person with special needs within a faith community. Going many, many steps further, he leads us on a powerfully empathetic journey of reflection on our core human values as they relate to those among us who may be different. Not content to leave the reader with a fresh perspective, Barone offers practical, real-world, caring suggestions for those of us who would undertake the task of understanding and teaching people who learn in ways that are outside the mainstream. This wonderful book speaks volumes in just 129 pages, sounding a loud, clear call for us to reexamine what it means to teach someone about faith, and challenging us to use our God-given creativity and flexibility to ensure that religious education is indeed accessible to everyone.
By Laurie Delgatto, author, editor, and ministry consultant
A Place for All is one of those books that has been missing from the world of youth ministry and religious education for far too long. John Barone challenges those of us who work with kids to include ALL of them, not just some of them, in our communities of faith. Barone provides important insight into the inclusion of all young people—even those we sometimes find it difficult to include, those with learning differences. The stories Barone offers inspire, and the practical ideas he proposes will be instrumental to anyone wanting to welcome all to the table of the Lord. If you are a youth minister, pastor, religious educator, or a believer in young people, you should read this book.
By Nadine Petrosewicz, academic dean, Saint Michael Middle School
When you first look at the cover, you might think, "This doesn't meet my needs, because I don't teach students with special needs." As an educator of 19 years, I realized that I'm the one with "special needs." Each kid brings a new set of strengths and weaknesses, most of which I know how to address. However, you will always meet a student or two with needs that you don't instinctively know how to guide. As you read John Barone's book, his love for kids and teachers provides the backdrop for his approach. Just when you are ready to throw in the towel (or a book :) ), he gives you useful strategies that actually keep a teacher in the driver's seat. He really gives a road map for both educators in ministry or mainstream for kids with traditional special needs and those who remind us that we teachers are forever learning.
By Angela of Altoona, PA
As a mother of a child with Down syndrome, I applaud your efforts to make children with special needs included in religious education. How much more appropriate this is for the church where ALL are welcome. Thank you, thank you, thank you!