Union Presbyterian Church of Los Altos launched a new ministry: “All God’s Children,” a Sunday School class for children with autism.
The program, which focuses on children 5-10, is not restricted to church families – any family that seeks an environment where God’s love is presented to children is welcome.
Despite the many advantages and programs the community offers, church members heard from parents about the lack of religious programs for children on the autism spectrum – a place where they could learn and discuss the Bible and God’s message in a way appropriate to their needs. The children’s ministry at UPC began to discuss such a program.
Serendipitiously, Amanda Royer arrived from Chicago after her husband, Chris, accepted a position at Yahoo. When the term “autism” arose, Royer mentioned that she had both a personal and professional connection with the problems children on the autism spectrum face. She has a 7-year-old half-brother diagnosed with autism. She has intimately experienced the difficulties many of the children – and those who care for or teach them – encounter in traditional classrooms.
Influenced by her brother’s struggles, Royer majored in child psychology at Davidson College in North Carolina and earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Beyond her academic credentials, Royer has prior professional experience with autism. At Lake Mary Elementary School in Illinois, she served as special-education teacher for students with autism. There was no existing structured program, so Royer developed the academic, social and communication skills, behavior management and independent functioning for students on the autism spectrum. And she gained ministerial experience at Grace Chicago Church.
Royer’s résumé defined the job description rather than the reverse. The dilemma was solved and a new ministry announced.
Royer has a simple but basic theological message for the children: “God loves you, and you can’t get rid of Him.” This fundamental moral truth, once embraced, gives each child comfort, safety and the foundation for everything else they encounter.