Fr Martin Micallef

Seminar in Malta for catechists on the inclusion of persons with autism in catechetical formation and the mass.

Between the 1st and 2nd of April on the occassion of Autism Awareness Day, the Secretariat for Catechesis within the Archdiocese of Malta in collaboration with Id-Dar tal-Providenza and the Catechetica Office within the Italian Episcopal Conference organised a two-day Seminar for cathecists on the inclusion of persons with autism in catechetical formation and the mass.  The guest speakers for this seminar were Sr Veronica Amata Donatello,  Fiorenza Pestelli and Maria Grazia Fiore who are all active in the disability field.

They proposed some inclusive methodologies that may be used in parishes.  The interventions focused on the subject of disability by means of theoretic formative action in ecclesial, spiritual and scientific aspects.

On the first day of the seminar, Sr Veronica Amata Donatello, resposible for disability issues within the Italian Episcopal Conference gave concrete examples of how persons with disabilities can feel excluded from active and full participation within their parish communities due to negative attitudes.  She went through Church documents which encourage faith communities to examine, evaluate and include persons with disabilties and to eliminate social prejudice against them.

Ms Fiorenza Pestelli, a religion teacher, spoke about the spiritual dimension of persons with disabilities that can only be found by reflecting on the way God looks at man beyond any limits.

Finally, Dr Grazia Fiore, a communications expert and mother of two siblings with autism spoke about the new types of communication and language that can be used especially with persons having autism spectrum disorder.

A workshop was held on the second day so that those taking part can acquire new ways and means to communicate faith and the Word of God. Ms Fiore gave concrete examples of how to overcome difficulties in typical communications where autism is concerned. She also explained how one can communicate using visuals and new languages as used in Alternative and Augmentive Communication.

During the seminar, those taking part showed a great interest and participated actively so much so that at the end of the two-day meeting it was found necessary to have a more profound study of the topics brought up and for more formation with other discernment and discussion meetings.