Committee helps parents, parishes 'learn from each other'

Archdiocese of Boston's Autism Study Committee members Elene and Sam Doucette, with their children Andrew, Zoe and Joseph. Pilot photo/Mark Labbe

ACTON -- All three of Sam and Elene Doucette's children huddled in the living room of their house in Acton to watch "Star Wars" as their parents sat at the kitchen table to speak to The Pilot.

"There's no owner's manual that comes with being a parent," Sam said, laughing.

"It's incredible, it changes your life," he said, glancing at his children.

Sam and Elene are part of the Archdiocese of Boston's Autism Study Committee, a committee under the Office of Outreach and Cultural Diversity designed to help the office provide better outreach to the community and to draw awareness to autism. Their eldest child, an 8 year old son Joseph, is autistic.

The committee has several members, most of whom also have a child or children with autism.

"I don't even think we've really been listened to like this before," Elene Doucette said of the committee.

Sam Doucette agreed. "That's been one of the biggest things in general, just knowing you're not alone," he said.

He said that when Joseph was younger, he "could barely speak." At around the age of two, he rarely said a word, unlike other children his age. This prompted Elene and Joseph's pediatrician to suspect he had autism, and he was tested and officially diagnosed.

"He's grown a lot," he said.

Elene Doucette noted Joseph also used to have a hard time with clapping at Mass, noting that people with autism are sometimes more affected by loud noises.

"Usually at the end of Mass, people who are really moved by the music will clap... Joseph would be upset every time there was a full applause," she said, noting that he isn't really upset by the loud noises anymore.

Instead, she said, Joseph is now beginning to find many aspects of the Church calming.

"He's found calming in this incredible Bible," she said, holding up a book that uses images to tell Bible stories, making them easier for Joseph to absorb.

"Autistic kids tend to be more visually inclined," said Sam Doucette.

"Having something like this to supplement what he learns in religious education has really helped," he said.

He noted that before finding that book, Joseph used apps that helped provide visual aids, and he hoped parishes could be accepting of those apps.

Even though Joseph's religious education class uses a variety of methods to teach, including movies and hands-on activities, there is a still a heavy verbal component, which is hard for Joseph. He noted that many children with autism have a harder time processing that type of verbal information, and it makes it especially hard in this instance since it is in a group, instead of one-on-one.

Still, the Doucettes said they are happy with the classes, and with their parish.

They said their parish gave Joseph a kit for first Communion and a kit for confession that are geared for kids with autism. The kits have visual items in them, such as flashcards and foam cut-outs.

People at the parish have been supportive, too, they said.

"Nine times out of 10," people will be understanding when one of their children are loud or crying, said Sam Doucette.

While they are appreciative of their parish, the Doucettes noted a few things they hope to change in parishes across the archdiocese through the Autism Study Committee.

One change they hope to see is parishes sit down "immediately" with new parishioners who have children with developmental difficulties, instead of meeting with the family when it is necessary, like when the children want to attend religious education. This immediate meeting would help make pastoral staff more aware of the family's needs sooner, and would help eliminate difficulties later on.

The couple also noted that it would be nice if Catholic schools with special needs programs could collaborate with parishes, bringing their knowledge or their programs to religious education classes at the parish level.

Sam Doucette, who works at a local military base, said he is also working to create collaboration between the Archdiocese of the Military Services and the Archdiocese of Boston. He said he has talked to co-workers, and they expressed interest in the idea.

The Military Archdiocese could "share how they help families (with developmentally disabled children) on the base," he said. "We can all learn from each other."

Families who are impacted by autism and wish to inquire about programming for their parishes can contact Robert Kavanaugh at 617-746-5791.

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...

Addicts and their loved ones talk about life with opioid addiction

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- It was a Saturday night, and Billy was eating pizza and watching a sporting event in the basement bedroom of his residence, a ...

Signers of letter hope Vatican meeting will bring needed steps on crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Signers of an open letter from Catholic women to Pope Francis urging "truth" and "transparency" on the growing sex abuse crisis expressed ...

Community 'overwhelmed and shell-shocked' after gas explosions, says pastor

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Down to earth: Vatican brings together world's meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the ...

Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, ...

'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a ...

Restoring and reimagining: Transformation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

BOSTON -- Considered by many to be the heart of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest Catholic church in New England, ...

Archdiocese says Cardinal O'Malley will personally review all abuse letters

BRAINTREE (CAN) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan P. ...

CM receives $2.5M grant from Yawkey Foundations

West Roxbury -- Catholic Memorial, a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 to 12, announced Sept. 5 that they have received a $2.5 million grant ...

Father Christian Ohazulume removed from ministry

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese announced on Sept. 11 that it had removed a priest from ministry after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

This week I am in transit to Rome in anticipation of the next meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals. So, I have asked Vivian Soper to share some reflections ...

Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy -- What did he say?

Washington D.C. (CNA) -- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs" during ...

Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Jefferson City, Mo. (CNA) -- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics ...

Book tells about behind-the-scenes search for St. Peter's bones

HOUSTON (CNS) -- Two Houston men shared a journey through centuries of history and a decades-long archaeological dig under the Vatican to unveil a story ...

Update way priests are chosen, accompanied, pope tells new bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The best way to help the Catholic Church, Pope Francis told new bishops, is not by pointing fingers and creating scapegoats, but ...

Vatican confirms ongoing Sistine Chapel Choir finance inquiry

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican confirmed an ongoing investigation into financial irregularities involving the directors of the Sistine Chapel Choir. ...

After meeting pope, cardinal says he's hopeful about addressing crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston struck a determinedly hopeful tone after his long-awaited meeting with Pope Francis ...

DA clears Indiana bishop of misconduct, says claim has harmed prelate

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend welcomed findings by a Pennsylvania district attorney that cleared Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ...

Cardinal DiNardo calls meeting with pope lengthy, fruitful

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo has called a Sept. 13 meeting between Pope Francis and leaders from the Church in United ...

What do Church abuse policies mean by 'vulnerable adult?'

Denver, Colo., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- A Vatican summit this February will gather the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world. While ...

'Elitist, clericalist' church allows abuse to thrive, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sexual and physical abuse by priests and religious and the scandal of its cover-up by church authorities thrive in countries where ...

Cardinal Wuerl to ask pope to accept his resignation

Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- An archdiocesan spokesman has confirmed that Cardinal Donald Wuerl will soon ask Pope Francis to accept his resignation ...

Pope accepts resignation of West Virginia bishop as inquiry into abuse claims launched

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Pope Francis Thursday accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield from the pastoral government ...