Child by Child

Supporting Children with Learning Differences and Their Families

Susan Richardson

Oct/2011, 112 Pages, PAPERBACK, 6 x 9

ISBN-13: 9780819227515



  • A how-to guide to integrate children and youth with special needs into church programs and activities, including worship
  • Includes how to train volunteers and staff for hands-on work with children and youth who have special needs
  • Provides a theological grounding for the inclusion of people with learning differences and disabilities in the life of a congregation

Integrating children and teens with learning differences into church programs is a growing priority for nearly all congregations, large and small, yet many feel ill-equipped to “manage” those with special needs in their classrooms, programs and worship. This new guidebook for churches is designed to help integrate children and teens with learning differences—and their families—into the fabric of everyday church life. 

A useable on-the-ground resource for church leaders with specific suggestions, samples, and processes for adapting curricula, training volunteers, and supporting parents and caregivers, this guide is grounded in theological principles for the inclusion of people with disabilities in the life of a congregation. It begins by focusing on human relationships instead of programs. Expanding the church’s awareness and understanding of inclusion is done with respect and achieved by extending the gospel of welcome to all. An extensive annotated bibliography of support materials is included.

The Rev. Dr. Susan Richardson, an Episcopal priest, lives and works in the Diocese of New Jersey.

Richardson offers an essential re-visioning of what unites us all – a dependence on God and those around us.  There is no radical distinction between “disabled” and “abled” when we are aware of our dependence and interdependence. Teaching is enhanced by the provision of resources that facilitate learning and participation by all, each according to his or her ability and need.
The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church    

Susan Richardson has put together an excellent resource for churches to use. Not only is this guide incredibly practical, the information helps to set a strong Biblical frame through which we can all view the blessing of building and cherishing inclusive church community.
Barbara J. Newman, author and inclusion specialist
CLC Network (Children's Learning Center)

Congratulations to Rev. Susan Richardson for writing an invaluable resource for faith communities servicing families with children impacted by special needs. This highly readable book offers basic information on characteristics of different exceptionalities’ specific learning requirements to prepare parents and Christian educators to integrate these young people into a church community. Practical techniques are outlined for adjusting instructional activities and social experiences to fully engage these children in their Christian education. Recommendations reflect a sensitive, compassionate appreciation for the challenges children with special needs encounter daily, especially acquiring skills to become productive adults. The reader will be impressed by the book’s organization, attention to details, and clarity of information. Parents, in particular, will benefit from the summaries of each exceptionality and their association with church programming. Church personnel will reference this book for strategies to nurture their communication and teaching abilities. I heartily recommend this innovative book for readers interested in servicing children with special needs in pursuit of their Christian education.
Donald F. Perras, Ph.D., Professor of Special Education
Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, Connecticut

Life is journey. Faith is journey. We live and learn in relationship with God, God’s earth, and God’s people. Those are core, universal Christian beliefs. Hospitality happens when that includes everyone in a process of mutual learning, where we love, reach out, make mistakes, and love again…in particular congregations. I love this manual by Susan Richardson. It is about how we learn and grow together in addition to what we learn, believe and teach. It is about how we understand about each other and God, not what we know. And it is about how our beliefs shape, and are shaped by, our call to embody God’s love for one and all, whatever our level of ability or disability. Child by child, step by step, with intention and attention, this manual is a guide to meeting, greeting, adapting, teaching, and worshipping together, with helpful strategies for everyone from the usher to the pastor, with loads of resources referenced for more specifics. For those just beginning the journey of inclusive ministries, or those already on the road, it’s a map for action and reflection.
Bill Gaventa, M.Div., Associate Professor
Pediatrics and Coordinator, Community and Congregational Supports
The Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities
UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, New Jersey

Child By Child offers a comprehensive introduction in welcoming children with learning differences as vital and valuable members of faith communities.  Susan's emphasis on forming relationships and building from an incarnational center makes an important theological statement about the way that we function as the Body of Christ.  Child by Child moves us away from simply accommodating special needs to a place of honoring all individuals and naming gifts.  This is an important contribution to the field of practical theology and makes contact with the whole Body:  parents, children, teachers, clergy and parishioners.  Every church library would be smart to include this on their shelves!
The Rev. Dr. Audrey Scanlan, Canon for Mission Collaboration, Diocese of Connecticut
Co-Director of “Rhythms of Grace,” a worship-centered curriculum supporting children with special needs and their families

This book provides a thoughtful, compassionate, and practical guide to integrating children with special needs in faith communities. Ms. Richardson gives clear, concise descriptions of a wide range of developmental disabilities and guides educators in thinking about how to accommodate each within religious education settings. The book will be invaluable to church programs that aim to be insure the every child is welcomed and valued by teachers, as well as by the entire congregation, without regard to learning differences.
Rhea Paul, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Professor, Yale Child Study Center

Child by Child combines rigorous practicality with a consistent theological focus. Richardson provides a wealth of data and resources for teachers and pastors ministering to a wide variety of learning differences. But this solid experiential base is suffused with Richardson’s gentle yet persistent insistence that we are all weak, all challenged, all gifted, all loved and honored by our crucified and risen Lord. Her rejection of the notion that there is any such thing as a “normal” child is grounded in her conviction that true Christian formation always shapes us for the reign of God – a common life in which all false hierarchies of ability are set aside. This book therefore speaks to anyone who seeks to grow in Christ, teachers and non-teachers alike. Indeed, its greatest value may lie in its constant invitation to entire congregations to be more available to the differently abled, and – once again – its irresistibly practical suggestions about how to go about it.
The Right Reverend Tom Breidenthal, Bishop, Diocese of Southern Ohio

In this remarkable book, Susan Richardson demonstrates the extraordinary power of her commitment and wisdom as an ‘ordinary’ pastor, Christian educator, and mother and invites all of us to discover similar power in the ordinary life, liturgy, and Christian formation of our church communities. As I read her very specific, research-informed description of challenges different children can face in learning situations and how an ordinary congregation can respond, I kept noticing how boldly Something (the Spirit?) had prompted Susan to stretch beyond her own experience to explore and reflect on the experience of children and parents facing developmental and learning challenges.   She reports on extensive, patient reading in the particular patterns, dilemmas, challenges and strengths that come to children and to families with very specific, clinically and educationally defined challenges, and she teaches herself and our communities to ask, “how do we make our intention to welcome all real in this instance?”   Susan’s compassionate reflection and inquiry guides her and us to specific practice choices any congregation can make to prepare itself for a welcome to strangers that may also help us discover the unspoken, hidden challenges families and children already active in the congregation are facing.     
The Reverend Donald Schell, President of All Saints Company and co-founder of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, San Francisco

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