Confirmation program lets special needs youth participate

By 
  • October 19, 2007
{mosimage}NEWMARKET, Ont. - The archdiocese of Toronto launched its newly revised Confirmation program “Anointed for Mission” this fall.

One revision allows students with special needs to participate more fully in the sacramental preparation.

“It’s meant (my daughter) can participate actively in a group situation,” said Julie Millar.

Her 14-year-old daughter Samantha is non-verbal because she has cerebral palsy, a lack of muscle control and movement due to a type of permanent brain injury that occurs before, during or shortly after birth. When Millar and her daughter were asked to take part in the Confirmation pilot program at  St. John Chrysostom parish in Newmarket last year before final revisions were made, she realized that unless it was formatted for Samantha’s needs, she would not able able to participate. Millar took it upon herself to scan the material into a  text format made readable for the Kurzweil Educational System, a program for children with learning disabilities.

Making the program available for use in the Kurzweil Educational System has never happened before, according to Christine Way-Skinner, lay pastoral assistant at St. John Chrysostom.

Way-Skinner spent two years revising the program with four other volunteer committee members on behalf of the Catholic Office of Religious Education and Liturgy.  

“It allows you to incorporate children with special needs without having to be an expert about children with special needs,” said Way-Skinner, whose own 10-year-old daughter has a learning disability.  

The program allows the computer to recognize the pages and reads them to Samantha. Then she answers questions using a head device that she activates with the side of her head to make right and left clicks on an onscreen keyboard.

“Although time consuming, it’s rewarding to see her write. It’s not me answering, it’s her,” said Millar.  

The text will be made available on the Catholic Office of Religious Education and Liturgy web site for parents to download.      

Other revisions include student artwork inside the manual, a journal and facilitator manual.

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