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Getting to Know the Person

Conversations with the Individual, Parents and Teachers

There are many possibilities for ways and levels of inclusion.  When you are first approached by a family, the first step is to develop a good understanding of the learner’s needs, and determine what the parent(s) and learner (if possible) want regarding the level of inclusion.  Families and teachers of individuals with disabilities can be the best source of information and ideas for catechists and parish leaders.

In this conversation, demonstrate an attitude of openness and support.  To learn the needs of the person before you, begin with inquiries about his or her interests and gifts, what makes him or her unique, and then proceed to the particular needs for support.  We are all people first.  Particularly in a faith community, different abilities and disabilities do not determine our personhood, though they do influence what each person is able to do. The questions in the box on the next page can guide you in this conversation. 

During the conversation, assure the parent(s) and individual (if present) that your questions are motivated by a sincere desire to provide the most supportive environment for  him/her and that privacy will be respected.  The information will be shared only with whomever they allow.   Hopefully, this will at least include the people working directly with him/her. This will help to explain different behaviors, leading to awareness and improved understanding in the parish. Also, respect that each person/family will have different goals and needs, AND that each person/family will have different desires for parish involvement.

Quick Reminders for the Conversation and Assessing Needs

  • Person First Language, seek to understand the person, not the disability

  • Ask about his/her gifts, likes, dislikes AS WELL AS specifics of diagnosis and learning needs.

  • Parents, teachers & the person are a great source of insight and guidance.

  • Possibly observe in other settings:  school, home, enrichment activities, etc.

A List of Questions to Guide the Conversation

  1. What kind of experience do you want – what level of participation? 

  2. What are their particular interests?

  3. What are their particular gifts?

  4. What kind of situations do they find challenging?

  5. What is their diagnosis?  This is only to provide some additional sense of supports that could be helpful.

  6. Do you attend Mass together?  If yes, briefly describe the experience.  If not, why not? (This is not for judgment, but to determine if there are any behavioral issues preventing it.  If so, learning to attend Mass is a part of the catechetical experience and may be the place to begin.) 

  7. Do they have particular or potential interests in Mass or Catholic traditions? (for example, really enjoys music, ritual, singing, etc)

  8. How would their social relationships be described?

  9.  What methods of communication are used?

  10.  What have been effective learning strategies?

  11.  What are good motivators?

  12.  Are there any inappropriate behaviors?

  13.  What are possible triggers of inappropriate behavior?

  14.  What are helpful responses to inappropriate behavior?

  15.  What is helpful for holding their attention?

  16.  What is their school or day environment like: inclusive setting, separate programing or mixture?

  17.  What adaptations and supports for learning and participation are used there? 

  18.  Do they have any diet or environmental issues?

  19.  Does they have any medical issues you need to be aware of?

  20.  Do they have siblings?  How do they relate to each other?

  21.  How do they relate to other members of the family and community?

  22. Is there anything else you would like to share?

updated 2/21/2021

Contact Us

Anne Masters, Ph.D., FAAIDD
Pastoral Ministry with Persons with Disabilities
Phone: 973-497-4309       
Anne.Masters@rcan.org

The Archdiocese of Newark
171 Clifton Avenue
P.O. 9500
Newark, NJ  071074

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