Springtime is upon us. For those in the Catholic faith, it’s the time for youngsters to receive their sacraments,
like Holy Communion. A pre-requisite skill is attending Mass. Many typical children are involved in sports,
clubs and other social outings. This can also include religious services, such as Mass. Participating in outside
activities and community-based endeavors can be tricky for people with special needs, like Autism Spectrum
People with ASD may need to be taught unwritten social rules.
Imitation doesn’t always come naturally to them. Pre-teach your
loved one the sequence of events to take place, such as the
of the Mass. Writing the rules in simple language and using
accompanying pictures will embed the information into their
minds. Creating a socio-behavioral short story about this activity
allows them to have a narrative to connect with. Watching videos
of this activity is also a great method for teaching the steps
involved. This person should review these strategies 2x per
Record MASS on the calendar so the individual has full
awareness of this upcoming activity. If Mass attendance is not
naturally motivating for him or her then provide a reward. On the
calendar write “First I go to Mass, then I go to ___________”. This
Premack Principle will allow your loved one to see the light at the
end of the tunnel. Have your child choose a reinforcing item or
activity that he or she will earn, immediately following Mass.
Another strategy is called Backward Chaining. This is a systematic way of completing a task that has the same
sequence each time. Generally, Mass has the same sequence each week.
Do it backwards…begin at the end:
Week #1 - have your child attend from Communion to the
Week #2 - attend from the Our Father to last song
Week #3 - attend from Profession of Faith to ending song
Continue this process until attending the entire Mass is in your child’s repertoire.
Prior to and during Mass, families can have a planned set of strategies. Proactive measures work better than
reactive. Pack a bag that consists of a picture schedule of the events of Mass and a small sensory item. This is
to be kept alongside the individual in the pew during Mass.
exible and open-minded will help. Successful inclusion depends on preparation, reiteration and
sensitivity. Sit close to a door in case an easy exit is needed. Allow your child to earn a break to walk outside
as a reward for when he or she is sitting so calmly. Catch the correct behavior and toss over a reinforcer.
Always remember to end with reinforcement!
Rebecca McKee, MSED, BCBA, LBA The 13th Child Behavior Analysts, Inc. www.the13thchild.org