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on September 5, 2007
Totally captivated, I devoured this book, barely pausing from the first to the last page, assimilating a plethora of innovative concepts, all the while sailing forth upon the winds of inspiration. This is a truly exceptional book. Emanating from a great and loving heart, the author shares her passion, a vision that both reveals and serves the unique needs of disabled children and their families. Never having raised a disabled child, and never having worked in the field, I quickly discovered the limitations of my own awareness, and could barely imagine the daily challenges facing disabled children and their families. This book was written to open eyes and awaken hearts, and mine will never be the same.

This Side of the Gate
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on September 17, 2008
...in my name welcomes me." Mark 9:37.

When I sat down to write this review, I spent some time attempting to come up with an appropriate title. And honestly, I couldn't think of a better one than the above quote from Mark.

Amy Rapada is a parent of a child with special needs, a special needs ministry consultant, and experienced educator and curriculum specialist. The story of her son Zach mirrors the joys and challenges all parents of special children experience. Thousands of books have been written about the public school experiences, but Zach inspired Rapada to reach further into her community to bring children with special needs into the ministries of churches nationwide. And The Special Needs Ministry Handbook was born.

The author writes, "Ninety five percent of those with disabilities are currently "unchurched." To that end. Rapada's Handbook is a special needs mission to include as many children with special needs into the fold of their family's chosen church.

The handbook covers ages preschool through middle school with a section for resources and disability organizations that partner with churches. It includes handouts for local churches to use in helping children with special needs.The models of Total, and Reverse Inclusion bring teacher resources, one-on-one support, and the nature of volunteerism to the forefront of how a church can appropriately and compassionately include this most special population. It answers questions such as, How can we include this child? What are the family's needs? What can we do if we're short of volunteers?

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for religious institutions is how to communicate with families with children with special needs, and how to convey information on the multitude of disabilities to church members with the goal of achieving understanding and compassion.

With that goal in mind, Rapada provides a manual with in an easy-to-read format, with extensive teacher resources and specific weekly lessons based on learning centers such as gross motor, art, sensory, etc.

This is a Bible-based curriculum, with versus to read and discuss. But it's so much more. In the Gross Motor Center, a child could be repeating a short Bible verse while using a mini-trampoline. The children are also encouraged to go beyond the "me," and make or do things for other people. For example, an art project that makes things for people who are ill. Being involved with this curriculum helps a child with special needs gain self-esteem and real world experience within a Christian focus.

To quote the author: "Churches that enable learners with disabilities enable God to work in the lives of families with special needs." Rapada saw a need, and she conveys this message intently and with expertise.

*Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, New International Version.
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on October 26, 2015
Thankful for this book and leadership.
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VINE VOICEon June 5, 2011
Title: The Special Needs Ministry Handbook
Subtitle: A Church's Guide to Reaching Children with Disabilities and Their Families
Author: Amy Rapada
Publisher: CGR Publishing (a self-publishing print-on-demand group)
# pages: 179

What I like:
--Provides 31 weeks of biblically-based object lessons for a special needs ministry class (total of 80 pages).

What I don't like:
--Obviously self-published (formatting issues, typos, ppt slides as images, smileys, and so on)
--Presents the church as God's house rather than God's people
--Overemphasizes the usefulness of special education professionals (making them sound like a must-have in every church rather than a nice-to-have)
--Uses statistics (questionable ones at that) in two places without providing any citation or source
--Proposed mission statement seems somewhat secular, makes no mention of Jesus, and takes responsibility for more about the child's development than the church should

Best for: Someone who is already well-versed in special needs ministry and/or has another resource on hand who is in need of good concept lesson/center ideas and who is willing to overlook the lack of professionalism

If you're looking for a better resource for children's ministry, Autism and Your Church is a decent pick, as is Special Needs, Special Ministry. And the best book by far about special needs ministry is Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability
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on November 6, 2008
Amy Rapada has done a great service for churches (and other organizations) in producing this book out of her own experience. Her insights are helpful, the material is well-organized, and the tools are useful. The Church should be welcoming to all people, but most churches are anything but welcoming to people who don't easily fit in. Amy is helping us to better be the Church.
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on December 17, 2008
The Special Needs Ministry Handbook: A Church's Guide to Reaching Children with Disabilities and Their Families

Amy Rapada challenges todays churches to put into action what we are all called to do: Love others. Mark 9:37 tells us "Whoever welcomes one of these children in My name, welcomes Me". As the parent of a child with special needs (myself) and having experienced judgment and isolation inside church, I appreciate the challenge. In a place where all should be welcomed, many tend to look for the easy way out. This book gives practical hands on application for us to make a difference. Join the discovery that people with special needs have the power to make a difference in your life. They are a gift we should embrace. This book will help you create an environment for success in all children and open your mind to the gifts they possess. We are to be no different than the child who comes willingly with an open heart. We are not the strong giving to the weak, but living in obedience to love one another. Consider making a special needs ministry in your local community a priority. With this book you will be prepared!
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on November 6, 2008
Families coping with difficulties need a sense of community and support so very much. When one family member is excluded from activities, the whole family is excluded. Isolation leads to despair. When my son was younger, it was extremely difficult to find things we could do as a family. At times his behavior was straining the patience of everyone around him, yet his very inclusion in every day life was just what he needed to figure this world out. One cannot always rely on the compassion of strangers. Amy Rapada's book gives very detailed plans on how to take a service-oriented, faith-based organization through the maze of inclusion. Because it doesn't take only compassion. A sustained committment to bridging the gap between understanding and action takes careful planning. Amy's book will guide you all along the way. A wonderful resource.
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on June 9, 2011
Kudos to Amy Rapada, author of The Special Needs Ministry Handbook: A Church's Guide to Reaching Children with Disabilities and Their Families. So many of us are at a loss--wanting to reach out to children with disabilities and their families, but not knowing how to begin. This is a practical guide for churches who sense God's call to ministry with children with special needs and their families. Amy's insights come from her experiences as an elementary school teacher, curriculum specialist, coordinator of special needs ministries, and as parent of a special needs student--all of which equip her to share a blend of "head knowledge" and "heart knowledge." She helps us provide a learning community in the church that welcomes everyone and better reflects the kingdom of God.
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on June 26, 2011
This book is motivational, exceptional, thought-provoking, extremely helpful, and above all: beautifully moving. Not only is The Special Needs Ministry Handbook a wonderful resource for lesson plans, activity centers, classroom layouts, teaching tools, and more...but it is also an inspirational tale all on its own. Upon reading this book, I was immediately drawn into an entirely different world. The world of a parent of a child with special needs. I could literally feel the emotion that the author poured into telling her story (which is also the story of so many others). Special needs affects all of us, whether through a family member, friend, or ourselves. Amy Rapada is living proof of how we can take our unique situations and make the world a little brighter.
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on November 7, 2008
Many people are not aware of the ways that churches either include or most often, exclude families with members who are differently abled. Amy does a great job of raising awareness about the great gift that churches can offer to families by taking steps to welcome, include and nurture children with special needs. In this book, Amy provides theological insight and practical information that encourages churches to take steps to be welcoming to all. Very helpful!
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