Our newest addition to the Key Ministry team came to us in a manner only God could orchestrate.
Carrie Lupoli was working in Connecticut as a special educator when her husband was transferred to Singapore. After her family arrived in Asia, she co-founded Live and Learn in response to the lack of appropriate services for children with learning disabilities and other special education needs in their mainstream classrooms.
In addition to the acclaim she has earned as an international educator, Carrie has been a noted parenting expert and has served as the spokesperson for the “Power of Play” for Mattel Fisher Price. She recently signed on as the official “Chief Mum” for MumCentre.com, a family of parenting websites in Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Australia.
Carrie and her family relocated to Chagrin Falls last year when her husband accepted a position with a local company. The children’s pastor from the church she and her family attended in Singapore sent her an e-mail about Inclusion Fusion. She was interested in learning more about the organization in her new hometown putting on the Web Summit. Her family had started attending a local church where Stephen Burks (one of our Board members) serves as Pastor of Worship and Creative Arts. She approached Stephen looking for ideas for where she might “plug in” to use her gifts and talents to serve…and needless to say, she’s the newest member of our team.
Carrie graciously responded to some interview questions we thought would be of interest to our readers. Part Two of the interview will run on Thursday.
C4EC: As a special educator, you have lots of experience in working with kids with “hidden disabilities”…ADHD, anxiety, kids on the high end of the autism spectrum, kids with sensory processing difficulties. What are the challenges you’ve seen when the kids you serve come to church?
CL: It’s amazing that even after living in Asia, Europe and now back to the US, that certain similarities exist regarding the challenges kids have when coming to church. One of the most challenging issues I see is when parents of typical peers quickly judge those with hidden disabilities negatively. I have worked with both parents and teachers to try to help them understand that if one sees a child acting “differently” then others, to not automatically assume the child is a byproduct of “bad parenting” or a lack of discipline in the home. Educating the surrounding community is pivotal because so often I observe parents who finally decide to just not attend church because of the way others make them feel about themselves and their parenting skills. If families don’t come to church, we can’t work with the child or their teachers to develop successful learning environments.
C4EC: You launched a company while your family was living in Singapore to provide support services to families of children with special education needs. What are some of the unique challenges families face outside of the U.S. when their kids require extra assistance and support?
CL: What an eye opening experience it was for me to witness what was happening to kids with hidden disabilities around the world. First of all, there are few, if any laws, in Asia regarding the discrimination of children with special needs. Most of the kids we support should be mainstreamed for all or most of their day, with the right support. Unfortunately many of them weren’t being given the chance to be educated in their least restrictive environment due to willingness, services and/or trained staff. In addition, American families who move overseas often assume, especially because they may be enrolling their children in an “American School” that services will translate and that they have the same rights that they do in America. Unfortunately that is very far from the truth and in reality, American Schools often identify themselves as such because of their curriculum or population of student. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are implementing best practices or laws from America.
C4EC: Are there practical ways for churches to help serve these families?
CL: Because churches often have the same challenges as schools, when it comes to developing and implementing strategies for kids with needs, the two groups can be collaborating more. With a group like Key Ministry training churches, if a particular church has the knowledge, reaching out to the international or local schools to offer training or support would be welcomed and often needed.
C4EC: What can the church in the U.S. to support families doing mission work overseas with special education needs?
CL: Missionary families are not any better off when it comes to support services if their children are attending schools overseas. Some families choose to homeschool their children and with quality, online international homeschool programs like www.k12.com missionary families can obtain support. However, in their brick and mortar schools, funding can be provided for support staff that is often permitted, but rarely funded by schools. Trained paraprofessionals can offer an incredible amount of assistance to families and schools. Cost is often a huge factor, however, and it depends on the area where the families are living. For example, a trained support specialist in a place like Bali, Indonesia runs about $100USD a month. Compare that to the same kinds of service in Singapore which will cost anywhere between $3000 to $5000 USD a month for full time support. Funding webinars on inclusive practices for willing staff in a child’s school could also be a fabulous resource for missionary families living overseas.
Next…Carrie’s suggestions for church staff, volunteers and parents for responding to kids with disruptive behavior.
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