Tips for writing a talk for people with autism and intellectual disability
1. Use concrete language
We often use abstract phrases and “Christianese” (such as covered with the blood of Jesus), which can be challenging for people with intellectual disabilities (ID) to understand. More helpful would be to try to explain these in concrete terms, using physical objects, or real-world references.
For example, to explain the idea of 'love', use images of hugs and kisses. Or, to explain the concept of the Trinity, use an object with three parts, such as an egg (with its shell, yolk and white) or an apple (peel, flesh and core) to demonstrate how the three parts - God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit - come together to form one God.
2. Include a mix of visuals and multimedia
Visual communication is often an effective form of communication for people with autism and intellectual disability. For example, accompany your talk with a powerpoint presentation with images of scenes from a bible study, or picture and symbols to illustrate a point or summarise a main idea. Other ideas include drawing pictures or a diagram on a white board, using props or costumes, showing a video, and using drama to act out a scene.
3. Use large text
Use large text in an easy-to-read font on a high contrast, uncluttered background.
4. Schedule breaks
Schedule regular 5 minute breaks during the talk (particularly if the talk will be going for longer than 15-20 minutes. This can help the individual to remain focused, calm and provides time to process and understand the information presented. (During breaks, you can ask members to stretch, walk around, do some star jumps, do some deep breathing, or get a drink of water).
5. Use simple language
Use simple language and rephrase questions or concepts.
6. Focus on one main idea
Have one main idea that is reiterated throughout the talk, rather than trying to cover many different ideas during the one talk.
7. Follow logical sequence
Follow a logical sequence, rather than jumping between disconnected ideas.
8. Unpack bible passages
Unpack bible passages that contain more complicated, difficult to understand phrases ahead of time so that they can be explained simply. Definitions of words not often used outside of a Christian context (such as ‘sin’, ‘justification’, ‘resurrection’ may need to be defined, perhaps with a simple, every-day example.
9. Choose your bible translation
Use an Easy English bible translation for bible passages. (Be mindful of using children’s bibles as they may/may not be appropriate for adults with intellectual disabilities). Examples of accessible bible translations include:
● New International Reader’s Version (year 3/4 reading level)
● Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)
● The New Century Version (NCV)
● New Living Translation (NLT)
● Good News Bible
Taylor Harrington and Clara Kang created this resource as part of a community project facilitated by 4th year Bachelor of Applied Science (Occupational Therapy) students at the University of Sydney.