Free Visual Aides for Catholic Children; A Review, by Lydia Cubbedge

As the mom of an autistic little boy I’ve spent hours searching for helpful visual aides for everything you can imagine. Visual schedules and graphics for disabled children tend to be generic at best and downright ugly at worst. When it comes to the delicate business of teaching the faith to our kids there are very few resources out there, and even fewer free visual aides, that are specific to what each individual child needs. Trying to find materials that are attractive and cheerful has been, for me, like looking for a needle in a haystack. I was delighted to find that the guide booklets Accepting the Gift offers are everything I’ve been looking for!

There are three free, six page, booklet templates that cover the Mass, the church building itself, and the parish school. When you download a booklet through Accepting the Gift’s shop page, you are given access to a Canva template. With a free Canva account you can easily personalize each page with photos from your own parish.

The Guide to Mass follows the basic order of the mass in a friendly, how-to way: Genuflect when you enter the pew! Say hello to Jesus! It continues through the opening prayers, readings, listening to Father teach, to communion and the final blessing. Each page is simple, straightforward, and easily understood. Each prompt has space to put your own photo or artwork. It’s entirely customizable. I especially liked being able to have photos of my parish priest in the guide. Being able to associate the man in the picture with the man at the altar is fun for my son. 

A page from My Guide to Mass, featuring photos from my parish.

The Guide to Church follows a similar pattern: a sentence to introduce the church building, holy water fonts, the altar, statues, stained glass, musical instruments. In my case, a warning picture about organs goes a long way in preparing my noise sensitive child for the music. If you’re like my family and attend different churches for mass you can use photos from your most frequented churches, or use beautiful images from fine art. 

Finally, there is the Guide to School. Designed for parish schools you can tweak the text and the pictures, adding on where needed, to describe your child’s school day or religious education program. The emphasis is on the faith formation found in school, and there is space to add pictures of your child’s teachers, books, and preparation for the sacraments. If you have a child in school every day you can insert new pages as a visual schedule to follow. Being able to show my autistic son pictures of people or things ahead of time is an invaluable help in getting him interested in lessons and willing to participate. 

The Guides are a fantastic way to help your kids familiarize themselves with the faith in a fun, warm, friendly way. They’re easy to use and infinitely adaptable, and if you laminate them will last a long time. Our family will certainly be printing out each of these free visual aides as we seek to encourage our beautiful boy to make the faith his own. Be sure to download your own copies HERE.

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