After her son’s speech therapist created a visual language system to help her son (who is functionally non-verbal and on the autism spectrum) navigate services at their Greek Orthodox church, Summer Kinard had an idea.
The mother of five — four of whom are on the autism spectrum — realized these same visual cues could benefit other children with autism, even if they were verbal.
“My daughter with autism can talk, but she doesn’t have a sense of time,” Kinard says. “She would ask me what was about to happen in the church service upwards of 70 times.”
But, Kinard says: “I realized that I could use the symbolic language of our faith to customize a visual schedule for the church service. When we brought the schedule to church for the first time, suddenly all five of our children, as well as several of their little friends, could follow the service better. My daughter was able to be involved without anxiety about what would happen next. It was an amazing transformation. We were able to start taking our children to church without having to hire a therapy assistant to calm them down.”
Seeing the success of the visual schedules in their own church, Kinard reached out to her sister, a Catholic director of religious education at a large parish, to develop a schedule to help children at Mass — and a way to help Catholic kids on the autism spectrum was born.