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Loyola Press Brings Faith Formation to the Frontiers
By Joellyn Cicciarelli and Tom McGrath

L
oyola Press, a Jesuit ministry, has created a revolutionary program that gives teachers and catechists, parents and grandparents, the ability to provide complete religious education to children with special needs.
 
Recently released, the Adaptive Finding God Program offers an adaptation for every lesson in Loyola Press’s Ignatian-inspired Finding God religious education series, as well as hands-on learning tools and guidance to provide one-on-one lessons for children with disabilities.

The product development team at Loyola Press felt inspired by Saint Ignatius’s advice to his Jesuit companions to “go in their door” when seeking to preach the Gospel to those on the frontiers. It’s clear that children with cognitive differences, like those with autism spectrum disorder, often learn best when clear and concrete concepts are presented by the use of learning tools that they can hold, manipulate, and practice with. This is the doorway that Adaptive Finding God offers to those who wish to welcome children with special needs into parish religious education programs or to teach these children at home.

The need for this program is great: About 1 in 68 children in the United States has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, while approximately 1 in 6 children has some form of developmental disability. “Children with autism and other disabilities are capable of having rich spiritual lives, yet many parents and children have suffered for the lack of appropriate materials,” explained Teresa Locke, president of Loyola Press. 

The Adaptive Finding God Program, developed in consultation with the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, builds on the success of Loyola’s Finding God curriculum for grades 1–8, which integrates the themes of the Catechism of the Catholic Church with Scripture, Catholic social teaching, and prayer. The program heeds the Pope’s call to support the spiritual development of disabled youth. Finding God presents the authentic teachings of the Catholic faith in a systematic way that broadens children’s knowledge of their faith. Adaptive Finding God presents those same teachings—distilled into their clearest form, one idea at a time—in creative ways that children with cognitive and other disabilities can learn and take to heart. 

The wealth of innovative materials includes colorful Loyola Learning Tools™, such as The Order of Mass Floor Puzzle, Steps to the Eucharist Movement Mats, biblical and family stick puppets with panoramas, and a Praying the Rosary Concept Kit. 

Supporting the adults who serve the children is a key factor in the success of any faith formation program, and Adaptive Finding God offers unique and comprehensive resources for catechists, parents, and pastors. Even the parish community is helped through pew cards with suggestions on how to welcome people with special needs to Mass. 

When asked to assess the success of the program, Fr. Paul Brian Campbell, SJ, publisher of Loyola Press, said, “Parents come up to us with tears in their eyes, thanking us for making it possible for their children to participate fully in the sacraments and in the life of their parishes. What better reward and affirmation is there than that?” 



Joellyn Cicciarelli is vice president for new product development, and Tom McGrath is director of new product development for trade books for Loyola Press. The press, founded in 1912, is a nonprofit Jesuit ministry of the Midwest Jesuits serving the Catholic community.  

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