Archive for August, 2015

Seeking Research Participation: Parents of children on the autism spectrum

From the Facebook Page of St. Basil of Ostrog Serbian Orthodox Church of Mettawa-Lake Forest, Illinois: Make a Difference. Help by participating in the first research that can directly help children with autism and their parents. Be a part of helping to discover new information that can make a difference in lives. If your child, or someone in your family or you know someone who has autism in their family, please share this information. Let’s help every child we are blessed to have. Each is an angel of God.

Seeking Research Participation

My name is Tatiana Vukotic and I am currently a student within the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) program at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, IL. I am in the process of completing my dissertation, entitled “Experiencing One’s Child With Autism Being Stared At During An Eastern Orthodox Liturgy: An Existential-Phenomenological Analysis.” The purpose of this study is to explore and understand parents’ lived experiences of being looked at/stared at in response to their child expressing “autistic” ways of being in the world during an Eastern Orthodox liturgy service from an existential-phenomenological

The purpose of attending to this research gap from an existential-phenomenological perspective allows for the uniqueness of parent experiences to be witnessed and expressed through the research. Implications of meaning themes will be discussed in considering what the described essence of the experienced phenomenon can offer to clinicians, parents of children with Autism and “autistic” ways of being in the world, the Eastern Orthodox community, and other religious communities from various cultures. This research will help us begin to consider how parents experience a stare and how this may connect to their experiences of acceptance and/or inclusion in faith communities, as well as help increase competency in clinicians for understanding religious and spirituality traditions.

I am seeking individuals who are between the ages of 21 and 55 and are currently parents of children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and/or display “autistic” ways of being in the world (including stimming, complex hand/body movements, jumping, and vocalizing), and have attended a liturgical service at an Eastern Orthodox Church, to assist me in the completion of a study exploring the phenomenon of receiving a look or stare from another.

St. Basil of Ostrog, the Wonderworker

Participants will be informed about the study and if consent to participate, will attend a 1-1.5 hour long interview at either the individual’s church or home-setting. The interview will be audio-recorded. Participation is completely voluntary and individuals can decide to stop participating at any time during the interview without penalty. All information will be held completely confidential.

As an incentive to participate, you will be compensated with a $25 Visa giftcard for your time. If you are interested in participating in this study, please contact me (Tatiana Vukotic, primary investigator) at the information listed below. If you have a relative or friend who is a parent of a child who has expressed “autistic” ways of being in the world during a liturgical service in the Chicagoland area, and feel that their knowledge would benefit this study, please share this flyer for their participation.

If you have any questions, please contact the research team:
Tatiana Vukotic, M.A.
Todd DuBose, M.Div., Ph.D.

To access: St. Basil of Ostrog Church Facebook Page 

To access the Church webpage: St. Basil of Ostrog Church Website 

Icon from Full of Grace and Truth 


An Orthodox Christian Group Home: the Hellenos House

The Greek Orthodox Christian Church which developed the Challenge Liturgy Program also laid the groundwork for the opening of the Hellenos House, an Orthodox Group Home for persons with developmental disabilities in the U.S.- in Wantagh, NY (Long Island).

SAE – Blessing Ceremony for Hellenos House by Archbishop Demetrios

A personal story: Christopher LeDour 

Also, from the Archangel Michael Greek Orthodox Church in Port Washington, NY

Thanks to the generosity of the Philoptochos chapters of the Direct Archdiocesan District (DAD), the residents of Hellenos House again attended a week-long summer camp, conducted by the social agency, Association for Children with Down Syndrome (ACDS), at St. Basil’s Academy in Garrison, NY.

The DAD chapters, along with our parish, actively support Hellenos House throughout the year and frequently visit with the residents. This is in keeping with a promise made to the New York State agency, Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), that the Greek-American community would partner with them to support such a project. 

See also: Challenge Liturgy Ministry 

Bethany Sheldahl’s weblog “Not of this World”

It’s a new blog, with a number of posts which can be found and accessed in the right column of her blog. Here’s one:

Church Survival Kit 

A Curious title. Bethany is an Orthodox Christian. Why would anyone need tips on surviving our glorious Divine Liturgy? For most of us, this is not an issue, because most of us are “neurotypical.” This is a term used by people of the autistic community concerning those who are not on the autism spectrum. Some expand this distinction beyond the community of those in the autism spectrum to all those whose who are neurologically diverse (including people who are bipolar, dyslexic, who have ADHD, and the like). From this point of view, such neurotypes simply are manifesting natural human variation, rather than disability. This viewpoint has been given the name “neurodiversity.” 

The Divine Liturgy was designed by the Holy Spirit for the majority, the neurotypical. In the weblog post above (in orange, which designates a live URL) Bethany, as person on the autism spectum describes how she copes with the overwhelming multi-sensory experience which is the Divine Liturgy. 

It is helpful for us all to consider how others experience this central foundation of Orthodox Christian life. And I am delighted to see those who are neurologically diverse, especially Orthodox Christians explain their lives themselves. 

Just a note- when I developed this weblog nine years ago I had not considered the viewpoint of neurodiversity, as you cn see from the title: Arms Open Wide: Orthodox Christian Disability Resources. I do not mean to offend those who do not count their neurology not as a disability, but as a variation. 

Enjoy Bethany’s post.

picture from Full of Grace and Truth

Myriam Shwayri on the Al-Kafaat Foundation

Church in Beirut, Lebanon

Al-Kafaat means “abilities;” people with disabilities also have abilities, and this is the focus of this Lebanese ministry. It is a ministry that is strongly supported by the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.

The following article is the text of a presentation given by Myriam N. Shwayri, daughter of the founder of Al-Kafaat Foundation in the country of Lebanon, during the 48th Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese Convention in Montreal, Canada, on July 26, 2007. To access the presentation:

The Al-Kafaàt Foundation | Orthodox Church

Also, hear an in-depth interview with Myriam on The Arabic Hour:

The website of Al-Kafaat:  The Al-Kafaàt Foundation


Moscow, Russia: Dienna’s Dream Fund

Diema was a child in one of Russia’s “baby houses” in the 1990’s which were very poorly funded and staffed; the conditions were horrendous. He had a large head because of  hydrocephaly and was a paraplegic; his legs were paralyzed. Mary Dudley first met Diema at the Baby house and kept up with him as best she could. Mary and her sister later began this foundation to improve the lives of disabled children in Russia. 

Here is an up-to-date report on the foundation: DIEMA’S DREAM FUND NEWS

One of the efforts of this Foundation is Diema’s Dream Village 

Also, their Creative workshopThese children develop skills that they can hone and develop. Through these skills they can express the human worth that they always had to begin with.

5 Russians engaged in the struggle toward mental health


 From an article in A Journal of Orthodox Faith and Culture: Road to Emmaus, the stories of five Russians from  who have struggled to overcome mental illness. The article is entitled George, Nadezhda, Tatiana, Sergei, & Michael. It is an interview with the five, who speak for themselves. Scroll down on the pdf to page two for the interviews. To access:


The Community of St. Elizabeth in Minsk

St. Elisabeth the New Martyr

On The Community of St. Elisabeth the New Martyr in Minsk, from the Russian website Pravmir, written by Ekaterina Stepanova, translated by Batalia Tsyguleva, and edited by Hierodeaon Samuel (Nedelsky): The Black-and-White Sisters 

This community serves people with disabilities, the sick, and the poor. Their website: Saint Elisabeth Convent; The web page describing their work: Ministry; A video on the Community:   People of God. Icon from  Logismoi 


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