Dr. Lawrence Sutton, director of pre-theologian formation at Saint Vincent Seminary, who has written two books, Teaching Students with Autism in a Catholic Setting, and How To Welcome, Include and Catechize Children with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities, a Parish Based Approach, has begun a blog, “Deacon Larry on Autism.”
Encouraged by his publisher to bring this ministry to a new format, he noted that “in the past I have tried writing professional papers—they were wonderful, but it is a difficult and time consuming process which reaches only a select group of people. I then became involved in public speaking traveling to many cities in the US as well as seven other countries delivering oral papers. Again this was wonderful and I saw so much, learned so much.
But this process too only reached a select group of people.
“So I thought, ‘how is a Catholic Deacon who is a clinical psychologist to reach more?’ Joellyn Cicciarelli challenged me to Blog,” Dr. Sutton said, “to use this forum to share ideas, recent developments, trends and other information which may be of use to those who are or who may know of someone who has an autism spectrum disorder.”
Dr. Sutton is was also a contributing author to the curriculum, Adaptive Finding God, a curriculum used with his first book. He also co-wrote the curriculum, Healthy Relationships, a Guide To Adulthood with Wesley Spectrum Services, to help teens and young adults better understand, adjust, and transitions as they prepare to enter adulthood.
He notes that it was in his work at Saint Vincent Seminary that “I found that God’s call to religious life isn’t just made to neurotypical individuals; I’ve worked with and celebrated a number of men who have successfully been ordained as priests and deacons. I also teach that the sacrament of marriage isn’t just for neurotypical individuals either and although at times some special preparation is required in preparation for marriage, it is something possible to many.”
Case studies are crucial in his books. While he does not reveal any identities of individuals, his descriptions of issues involved in catechesis of persons with autism and other developmental disabilities, and how to teach such individuals in a Catholic setting, are crucial in his work. He intends the blog to use a similar structure.
“I am very familiar with autism, living around it, assessing it, teaching those who may have he developmental disorder as well as teaching others about it,” he notes. “Please help me in this work by letting me know what you think.”
The blog’s web address is https://deaconlarryonautism.com/.
In addition to receiving the Gold Medal in the Illumination Book Awards for Teaching Students with Autism in a Catholic Setting, (see spring 2021 Leaven), Dr. Sutton has also received a national Catholic Press Association Award. The book received an honorable mention in the category of Pastoral Ministry—Catechetical.
The book is a comprehensive guide to help equip those working in a Catholic setting with the tools, knowledge, and strategies they need to better understand and effectively respond to children with autism.
Dr. Sutton is an ordained deacon and a psychologist specializing in developmental disabilities, especially autism spectrum disorders. He is the former manager of the Western Region Office of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Autism Services and is nationally recognized for developing his own methodology for providing religious education to children with special needs.
Grounded in the Catholic principle that every person has dignity and possesses gifts to be shared with the greater community, Teaching Students with Autism in a Catholic Setting helps educators become agents of God’s grace in improving the lives of children with autism, Dr. Sutton notes.
Dr. Sutton earned a bachelor of arts in psychology from Edinboro State College, a master of education and Ph.D. from the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh, and a post-doctorate certificate from the School of Psychology, Duquesne University. A licensed psychologist in both Pennsylvania and West Virginia, he holds certificates as a school psychologist in Pennsylvania, and in elementary and secondary guidance in Pennsylvania.
His first book, described an effective method for priests, directors of religious education, and parishes to help those with autism and developmental disabilities be fully welcomed into the Church.
The book is available from www.stvincentstore.com for $13.95.
Loyola Press, publishing of Dr. Sutton’s books, created a short video with tips for teaching students with autism. It can be found here.