April 20, 2012

Be Our Guest / Patty Reed

SPRED program and local organization help children with autism and their families

Patty Reed and her daughter, Jessica. (Submitted photo)

Patty Reed and her daughter, Jessica. (Submitted photo)

I have been a parishioner at St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis since 1997. I am also the parent of 17-year-old twins—a boy and a girl.

My daughter, Jessica, has autism and has participated in religious education at St. Simon Parish since preschool.

However, she, like other children with special needs, required a different approach to traditional religious education.

In the 1960s, the Archdiocese of Chicago established a program called Special Religious Development—SPRED—which was approved for use in 1997 by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

In 2007, I and other members of St. Simon Parish began the SPRED program in our parish to better meet the religious education needs of children with disabilities.

Jessica has participated and flourished in St. Simon’s SPRED program, and she looks forward to being with her SPRED friends on Sundays. It is wonderful to see how Jessica has grown in her faith because of the SPRED program.

Having a child with autism can be difficult because it affects every aspect of your daily life. But my strong Catholic faith has allowed me to accept and deal with the daily struggles of an autistic child.

I have also found solace in surrounding myself with others who have children with autism.

In 2001, I attended the first Answers for Autism walk in Indiana. This prompted me to join Answers for Autism, and I have served as president for the past four years. What started as a support group for mothers of autistic children has grown into a nonprofit organization run entirely by parents of children with autism.

Answers for Autism is dedicated to raising funds for both autism programs in Indiana as well as national autism research. Since 2001, the organization has donated more than half a million dollars through the efforts of a small group of parent volunteers working year-round to plan several fundraising events, the main one being the annual Answers for Autism Walk.

Having a strong faith and being part of Answers for Autism go hand in hand. I feel that God always has a plan for us, and even though he sometimes allows obstacles to be placed in our path he also has a way of allowing those obstacles to help us grow and serve others.

I strongly believe that working with Answers for Autism is God’s way of using my daughter’s diagnosis to do his work through me.

It is very rewarding to see children with autism receive opportunities to learn, which would never have occurred without donations to schools made by Answers for Autism.

(Patty Reed is a member of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis, and is president of Answers for Autism, whose website is at www.aaiwalk.org. April is Autism Awareness Month. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis is a member of NCPD—the National Catholic Partnership of Disabilities—that has a webpage on autism at www.ncpd.org/ministries-programs/specific/autism. If you have a family member who experiences autism or know of parishioners with autism who may need certain accommodations or support to participate in parish life, contact Kara Favata, assistant director for special religious education in the archdiocese, at 800-382-9836, ext. 1448, or 317-236-1448, or by e-mail at Kfavata@archindy.org.)

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