Leading a Special Needs Ministry: A Practical Guide to Including Children and Loving Families.  By Amy Fenton Lee

In Chapter 3:

Consider the increase in the incidence of autism. Between 1997 and 2008, the prevalence of autism diagnoses increased 289.5%. And by 2013, 1 in 50 children was identified with an autism spectrum disorder. The incidence rate among boys is actually as high as 1 in 31 (3.23%). Some professionals argue that these statistics are still too conservative, only taking into account children who have been formally diagnosed with an ASD. A respected South Korean study identified as many as 1 in 38 children as exhibiting characteristics associated with autism.

With these statistics in mind, can any ministry ignore the need to prepare for participants with learning differences and disabilities?

  • .14 percent of babies are born with Down syndrome (1/691 babies)
  • 2 percent of children have been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (1/50 children).
  • 7 percent of children ages 3 to 17 have been identified with ADHD.
  • 8 percent of children ages 3 to 17 have been identified with a learning disability.
  • 14 percent of children ages 13 to 17 have been identified with a developmental disability.
  • 17 percent of Americans are estimated to experience a communication disorder at some point in their life (1/6 Americans).
  • 19 percent of Americans of all ages are classified as a person with a disability (12 percent are severely disabled).
  • 25 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds are identified with anxiety.

Key Ministry is a non-profit ministry that helps Christian churches serve families affected by disability. Everything we do is free. Key Ministry...a church for EVERY child.

We understand that disability ministry presents a unique set of challenges and triumphs. We want you to know you are not in this alone! We seek to come alongside pastors and volunteers with relevant tools and resources to enhance their ministry. We have created an online Resource Kit with a variety of articles, forms, ideas, and how-to guides to take your ministry to the next level. Come explore our Key Ring Binder, Inclusion Fusion Library, The Workbench, FREERESPITE, Special Events, Party with a Purpose, and Key TV modules to find new ways to reach families affected by disability in your own community!


One in 42 children in Katy has been identified with
an autism spectrum disorder;

share the hope.
Special Needs Ministries and Support Groups:
Here you will find information regarding special needs faith based ministries, support groups, national autism and related organizations, and Spanish speaking organizations. 


Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston (call to find a Catholic church in your area with a special needs ministry)
Charleen Katra
1700 San Jacinto
Houston, TX 77002

Calvary Houston
TLC Ministry
3700 FM 528
Friendswood, TX 77546
Bonnie Jensen - TLC@Calvaryh.org / 281-773-4618
281-648-5800 (Church Main)
The TLC Ministry at Calvary Houston is a Special Needs ministry for all ages. For more information, visit:

Chapelwood United Methodist Church, Sunshine Room
Liza Kutner
11140 Greenbay
Houston, TX 77024

Christian Tabernacle, Camp Joy Room - Children's Wing

Florencio (Bo) Vega
13334 Wallisville Road
Houston, TX 77049

First Presbyterian Church-Houston, WinGS
(Walking in God’s Spirit) embracing children with special needs
Stephanie Fregia
5300 Main Street
Houston, TX 77004

First Methodist Church Houston (two locations), Joy Ministry JOY Respite Nights, JOY Summer Camp, JOY E-devotionals, JOY Seminars and more.

Tanya Sterling, 713-458-4702, tsterling@fmhouston.com
1320 Main Street @ Clay
Houston, TX 77002
10570 Westpark Drive
Houston, TX 77042

First United Methodist Church of Pearland, I-Can Ministry (Children with Alternative Needs)
Jennifer Powell
2314 N. Grand Blvd.
Pearland, TX 77581

Gethsemane United Methodist Church, S.M.I.L.E. (Special Ministry in a Loving Environment)
6856 Bellaire Blvd
Houston, Texas 77074
Sunday Morning worship and Sunday school program for children with cognitive challenges, 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. In the SMILE worship service, kids sing, hear stories, play games and make crafts, all set around a theme of the day. Many times, that theme centers around that day’s theme in the adult service. What looks like fun and games serves as a chance for the kids to worship in a way that is geared toward their needs and learn more about church, so that as they mature, they might find their own place in worship.

Grace Fellowship United Methodist Church, The Bridge
Dora Corley, Special Needs Director
Office: 281-646-1903, ext. 167
2655 S Mason Road
Katy, TX 77450

The Bridge provides a Bible based curriculum that is adapted to meet the needs and abilities of each of our children. 

Caregivers must apply/enroll prior to taking their children to The Bridge Program.

Graceview Baptist Church, JOY Ministry
25510 Tomball Parkway 
Tomball, TX 77375
The purpose of The JOY Ministry is “To Empower the Disability Community with God’s Love." By welcoming to our church families who are affected by special needs, we can begin to care for their family member while encouraging them to get involved in church.

Jewish Community Center-Houston, Adapted Aquatic, Club Haver, Gymnastics Super Stars, Nite Owls, STARS, TOPSoccerEric Bishop
5601 South Brasewood
Houston, TX 77096-3907, 713-729-3200
JCC Houston offers a varied selection of activities and services designed to meet the social and recreational needs of people with special needs.  These groups offer them opportunities to enhance their self-esteem and improve social skills while developing meaningful relationships.

Kinglsland Baptist Church
Barbara Brennan or Vicki Hoyle
20555 Kingsland Blvd.
Katy, TX 77450

Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, Oasis (Serving Children with Special Needs)
Karen Lopes, 713-490-9265 or email her at klopes@mdpc.org
11612 Memorial Drive
Houston, TX

OASIS exists to: Serve children with special needs by helping them learn about and experience God's love. Provide a safe learning environment structured according to each child's needs. Provide a respite for caregivers and parents of special needs children so they may worship and enjoy fellowship. Allow volunteers, staff, and congregation to serve and to learn from children with special needs.

River Pointe Church
5000 Ransom Road
Richmond, TX 77469
Special Needs Ministry at RPC called iFit - Saturdays @5:00 & Sundays @9:30 & 11:15RPC is dedicated to partnering with parents of children and adults with special needs.  Our Special Needs Ministry allows everyone to learn about the love of Christ at their own pace.  We currently offer programming for children during all 3 services at our Richmond campus.  Coming soon will be a class for older teens and adults with special needs.  To find out more, contact our Special Needs Director, Wendi Akers at wendi@riverpointe.org or 281-277-6767 x 221.

Second Baptist Church
Katy @I-10 location
19449 Katy Freeway
Houston, Texas 77094

St. John Vianney Catholic Church
Carolina Sayago, Special Needs Ministry
625 Nottingham Oaks Trail
Houston, TX  77079-6234
Tel:  281-497-1500

St. Peter's United Methodist Church, Special Needs Ministry
Sarah Morrison, Special Needs Coordinator, or Kelly Johnson
20775 Kingsland Blvd.
Katy, TX 77450

Sunday School Options: Children with special needs can participate in the grade-level Sunday School classes independently.  The teacher can be made aware of any needs or challenges your child might have. Children with special needs can participate in grade-level Sunday School classes accompanied by a mentor.  Mentors lend guidance and encouragement, provide extra instruction and offer friendship to children who need an extra set of loving hands.  Mentors can be assigned to a child individually or to a class as a whole. Children with special needs can participate in a separate self-contained class.  This class is much smaller, with usually a 1:2 or 1:3 teacher/child ratio.  The curriculum in this class is individualized to the children participating.  Many of the children in this class find the larger Sunday School classes over-stimulating and overwhelming. 

Tallowood Baptist Church, Treasures
Carol Kleckner
555 Tallowood
Houston, TX
Email: ckleckner@tallowood.org
The Tallowood Treasures class is a place for children with special needs, ages 6 through 18, whose different abilities are celebrated and accommodated. Each Sunday, our Treasures listen to a Bible story, learn to love Jesus, and hear that God has plans for their lives. We have weekly music and art activities.

Support Groups:

ASPIE of Houston
Kathy Stallings
PO Box 17496
Sugar Land, TX  77496
ASPIE Adults and ASPIE Teens meet the second Thursday of each month, at 7:00 pm at Sugar Land Baptist Church, 16755 Southwest Fwy, Sugar Land, TX 77479, room 302.

Autism Playgroup of Fort Bend County
Susan Garczynski
cell 281-726-2665

Autism Society Texas Gulf Coast Chapter
Email: Tx-gulfcoast@autismsocietyofamerica.org
P.O. Box 57865, Webster, TX, 77598

Blessed Be Hope for Three, Inc.

Darla Farmer, Founder
11104 W. Airport Blvd., Ste. 150,
Stafford 77477

10200 W. Airport Blvd., Suite 100

Stafford, TX 77477


Cell: 713-858-7965

Email: darla@hopeforthree.org


Easter Seals - Greater Houston
Elise Hough, CEO
4500 Bissonnet, Suite 340
Bellaire TX 77401
713-838-9050, ext 332 
Parents Plus is a parent/guardian networking group.

East Houston Challengers Parent Support Group/message board: established July 2009, meets last Sunday of each month, 1:30 pm at Christian Tabernacle's Family Life Center 13334 Wallisville Road, Houston, TX 77049, in rear of building. http://www.meetup.com/CHALLENGERS-Parent-Support-Groups/  

Focus on Friends - Katy, Texas and surrounding areas https://www.facebook.com/groups/496504537094822/

Houston Autism Disability Network (HADN)
Michelle Guppy
P.O. Box 2796
Cypress, Texas 77410

They are a network of parents, caregivers, educators, professionals, clinicians, physicians, and therapists, etc. We all come together for monthly meetings or special events and conferences for the purpose of sharing information, networking, and above all, support. MichelleMGuppy@yahoo.com

Houston Autism Meetup Group

Meet families and friends of children with autism, Asperger's syndrome, or PDD-NOS to talk and share strategies, treatments, etc. Also arrange playdates, fun activities and "Parent Only" events. 

Humble Autism Support Group
This is a group that offers support & education on what it means to have a family member with Autism. We have a son who is 6 on the spectrum and another one who is 9 who is not on the spectrum and we are looking for a way to support others in this journey and for some extra support for our family. My oldest son really struggles with his younger brother. We are all in this together so we mine as well help each other out and share ideas & strategies that have worked for us they may just be able to help someone else.

Katy Autism Support
They are a support group for caregivers of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders in Katy, Texas. They discuss the many issues involved in raising and educating a child with an autism spectrum disorder. This group is open to parents, educators in Katy ISD, and professionals who work with children on the autism spectrum. KAS believes that it is only through working together in partnership with one another that they can best serve their children. Monthly group meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month at St. Peters United Methodist Church @20775 Kingsland Blvd., Katy, TX 77450. Meetings are from 7:00 – 9:00 pm in Asbury Hall (near the sanctuary). Childcare is available for the meetings. Meeting topic and details are posted to the group before every meeting.

Merits 2 Parents Special Needs Parenting Club, Sugar Land, TX http://www.meetup.com/Merits-2-Parents-Special-Needs-Parenting-Club/

NW Houston Parent Support Group Arc Of Visibility
13403 Cypress North Houston, Cypress 77429
Please join parents/caregivers who, like you, are raising a child with unique needs that can be challenging at times. Cypress United Methodist welcomes you to come share, learn, and grow together as we journey together through uncharted waters. Monthly meetings will be held the 3rd Thursday of each month from 7:00 - 8:30 PM. Meetings will be an informal gathering to allow for meet and greet, discussion of community needs, and sharing time. Child care may be provided, but on an as need basis.  Please let us know if you will need child care - RSVP to Robin Rettie at robin@LHlearningresource.com  Should you/we have difficulty finding reliable child care, you are welcome to bring your child(ren). We only ask that you honor our request that you monitor your child's safety. Arc Of Visibility is navigated by S.E.A.S. ~ Special Education Assistance Services and sponsored by Lighthouse Learning & Resource. Enter the large building with the beautiful stained glass earth and follow signs to guide you to the meeting room.

Pasadena, TX - The Starlight Brigade
We are a private group for tweens & teens diagnosed with Asperger's or similar high-functioning disabilities, such as; HFA, PDD, OCD, 2E & ADHD. The ages of our members range from approximately 10 - 18 years. The goal of The Starlight Brigade is to bring our special kids together and give them an opportunity to make friends they can relate to. Our members have their own ways of expressing themselves, and we accept and understand them for being special and unique.  http://www.meetup.com/Houston-tx-THE-STARLIGHT-BRIGADE/

Parents of children with Asperger’s

Meet with parents to discuss issues in common and arrange play-dates between children of similar ages and interests. http://www.meetup.com/aspergers-249/

Pearland, TX Parents of Children with Special Needs Grouphttp://www.meetup.com/Forever-Woven-In-our-shoes-but-in-HIS-hands

Parent Support Group of Kids with Special Needs in Spring/Klein/Woodlands Area https://www.facebook.com/ParentSupportGroupofKidswithSpecialNeedsinKlein


Project Autism; Putting the Pieces Together: Information & Resources About Autism
Welcome to Project Autism! Our goal is to provide assistance, support, and education to families and professionals affected by and/or affiliated with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The foundation of Project Autism is this website. Project Autism is your one-stop shop to obtain quality information in the form of trainings, a comprehensive resource list, research information, and current events, as well as give you the opportunity to contribute to those who live with or are affected by children diagnosed with ASDs. http://www.project-autism.org/about-us.html

Special Needs Parent/Guardian Support Group
First United Methodist Church - Conroe
4308 West Davis (Hwy. 105)
Conroe, TX 77304
Parents/Guardians of persons with specials needs, of any age, are invited to share experiences and information in a supportive, informal setting. Meetings are open to the community and are scheduled the first Tuesday of the month at 6:00 pm in Room 109, beginning September 4, 2012. Childcare is available with advance notice. If you have questions, please contact Kim Ramsey at klr2@suddenlink.net or 936-441-7741 or Rev. Janet Stilwell at 936-756-3395.

Specialbilities - special needs support group https://www.facebook.com/groups/438812002869910/


Special Needs Parent Support Cypress, TX Area – private support group, you have to be invited to join https://www.facebook.com/groups/cypressspecialneeds/599672643512200/?comment_id=599783073501157&notif_t=like

Texas Autism Advocacy
Michelle Guppy, Facilitator/Moderator
Texas-Autism-Advocacy@yahoogroups.com & its affiliated websites: www.texasautismadvocacy.org & http://www.hadn.org/. This list is for people wanting to share information or get information about interventions for autism and related disabilities in Texas. Professionals, parents, and students are welcome; as well as disability /advocacy related organizations. The list may be used for: Networking to find services for a child; Discussion of various intervention strategies: educational, medical, therapeutical, and others relating to the needs of a child with autism; Announcement of upcoming conferences or meetings, new books available, etc. Posting contact information and sample letters to Texas legislatures and information on policies that affect our children; Posting of Action Alerts and professional business services related to disabilities and how parents can benefit or join the cause. This list's goal is to connect all the groups in Texas together through the internet to provide a valuable resource base to help children and adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

National Autism & Other Helpful Organizations:

Adventures in Autism: http://adventuresinautism.blogspot.com/

Age of Autism:

Any Baby Can: http://www.abcaus.org/AboutUs.asp

Applied Behavioral Strategies (Dr. Melissa Olive): http://www.appliedbehavioralstrategies.com/about-us.html

Arc of Greater Houston (Right to Learn): http://www.aogh.org/

Autism360: is a unique tool which provides an accurate report that captures the details of your child’s or your own individuality and offers treatment options that have worked for others with closely matching records. http://autism360.org/

Autism Aid, autism service consortium: http://www.autismaid.org/

Autism Asperger’s Publishing Company:

Autism and PDD Support Network: http://www.autism-pdd.net/

Autism Friendly Business listing: http://www.autismfriendlybusiness.com/

Autism is Medical (AIM) https://www.facebook.com/pages/Autism-Is-Medical/249856855034784

Autism Media Channel and The Autism Trust at
http://www.autismmediachannel.com/, email contact info@autismmediachannel.com.

Autism Network International (Jim Sinclair): http://www.autreat.com/

AutismOne: http://www.autismone.org/

Autism/PDD Information and Support to help your child http://www.autism-pdd.net/

Autism Program at Yale: http://medicine.yale.edu/childstudy/autism/index.aspx

Autism Research Institute: http://www.autism.com/

Autism Risk & Safety Management (Dennis Debbaudt): http://www.autismriskmanagement.com/

Autism Speaks: http://www.autismspeaks.org/

Autism Society of America: http://www.autism-society.org/

Autism is Treatable. http://www.nationalautismassociation.org/psa.php

AWAARE: http://www.awaare.org/

Brain Treatment Center: http://www.braintreatmentcenter.com/

CBBC Newsround - My Autism and Me, 13 year old Rosie explains her autism (one of the best explanations from someone on the spectrum) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeGaffIJvHM

Carole Gray Center; social stories and more: http://www.thegraycenter.org/

Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD): http://centerforautism.com/, 9390 Research Blvd. Suite 230, Austin, TX 78759, 855-345-2273, 512-330-9520

Council for Exceptional Children: http://www.cec.sped.org/am/template.cfm?section=Home

Deborah Lipsky a/k/a The Raccoon Lady: http://www.autistic-raccoonlady.com/

Disability Rights Texas (formerly Advocacy Inc.): http://www.disabilityrightstx.org/

Dr. Andrew Wakefield: http://www.callous-disregard.com/

Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law & Advocacy: http://www.ebcala.org/

Experise.com is a guide that aims to help make federal grants available to seniors, veterans, and disabled people much easier to understand and take advantage of, particularly for remodeling homes for accessibility. http://www.expertise.com/home-and-garden/home-remodeling-for-disability-and-special-needs

Future Horizons:

FEAT-Houston: http://www.feathouston.org/

Gaia Health, health related articles -  http://www.gaia-health.com/

Generation Rescue:

GF/CF/SF diet on a budget: http://www.tacanow.org/family-resources/gfcfsf-diet-on-a-budget/

Global Autism Collaboration (formerly Center for the Study of Autism): http://www.autism.org/

Hand in Hand Parenting - parenting tools, insights and supports. http://www.handinhandparenting.org/

High Tech Rehab Solutions: http://hightechrehab.com/

Julie Matthews, Certified Nutrition Consultant specializing in autism spectrum disorder: http://nourishinghope.com/

Learning Disabilities Association of America:

Michelle Garcia-Winner, curriculum for people with social cognitive challenges: http://www.socialthinking.com/

Microboards, information on how to start a successful microboard: astabeno@thearcoftexas.org, provides regular trainings. Contact Amy Stabeno at The Arc of Texas. http://www.twinvisions.org/about-microboards/, http://www.communityworks.info/articles/microboard.htm 

Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs (MAPS): http://www.medmaps.org/

Moms Against Mercury: http://momsagainstmercury.org/index.html

National Autism Association:

National Education Association Special Education: http://www.nea.org/specialed/

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml  

National Vaccine Information Center: http://www.nvic.org/

Newly diagnosed child? Check out:

North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System website: www.pillswallowing.com

One Place for Special Needs: http://www.oneplaceforspecialneeds.com/

Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support (OASIS): http://www.aspergersyndrome.org/

Outbound Visions: http://www.twinvisions.org/outbound-visions/ Lisa Hill Sostack, Program Director. They focus on helping families locate resources, including private for-profit and nonprofit companies as well as public agencies that can offer assistance to people with disabilities build meaningful lives in the community.

Partners Resource Network TEAM Project; Region 4 representative: Marggiana Sanchez-Petit, 713-524-2147, msanchezprnteam@sbcglobal.net or Julissa Porro, Program Manager.

Project Autism: http://projectautism.org/ one-stop shop for individuals, professionals, and families looking to obtain quality information. 

Project LifeSaver International: http://www.projectlifesaver.org/ wandering and elopement tracking technology.

Put Children First (a Generation Rescue website): http://putchildrenfirst.org/index2.html

Reach for Kids, a resource guide for parents of special needs children: http://www.reachforkids.com/

SafeMinds: http://safeminds.org/

Schafer Autism Report: http://www.sarnet.org/

Special Ed info: http://www.greatschools.org/special-education.topic?content=1541

Special Ed info: http://www.specialedadvocate.org/Advocating-for-Your-Child.html

Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP) provides assistance to people with disabilities in Texas http://www.dars.state.tx.us/dhhs/servicesmanual/ch5.htm

Stop School Bullying Now: http://www.stopschoolbullyingnow.com/

Talk About Curing Autism: http://www.tacanow.org/, site has great advice for starting GFCF diet and other autism tips on a budget.

Temple Grandin: http://templegrandin.com/

Texas Education Agency - Special Education section: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=2147491399 

Texas Project FIRST: http://www.texasprojectfirst.org/ an online resource that is developed by parents, for parents.  The site is arranged by age so you can access information when it is needed.  The site has links to Community Services (How to get your children on Medicaid waiver lists, etc.), IEP development, TAKS/STAAR/EOC, TEKS, etc.  It is also your source for Acronyms and Glossary definitions which are no longer in the TEA Guide to the ARD Process.

Texas Department of State Health Services: http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/cshcn/

The Autism File:  http://www.autismfile.com/

The Canary Party:  http://www.canaryparty.org/

The Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs (CoMeD): http://mercury-freedrugs.org/

The Integrative Centers for Autism: www.californiahyperbarics.com and www.wisconsinhyperbarics.com 888-278-4268.

Thinking Moms Revolution: http://thinkingmomsrevolution.com/

Tony Attwood – Asperger’s: http://www.tonyattwood.com.au/

Uninformed Consent - http://uninformedconsent.org/home.html

Unlocking Autism:

Vaccine exemptions: go to link to complete request- https://corequest.dshs.texas.gov/ Affidavit Request for Exemption from Immunizations for Reasons of Conscience. To obtain exemption forms for your children, click on the link to complete the online form. Be sure to request the maximum 5 forms per child. Submit the form online and your affidavits will be mailed to you in about 2-3 weeks. You will need to sign the forms and have them notarized. Your bank will usually do it for free, or check with your place of worship to see if the secretary can notarize for you.

Spanish Speaking Autism Groups:

Aplasta Al Autismo (Crush Autism) http://racayadi.wix.com/aplastaalautismo#

2, a not-for-profit organization based in Puerto Vallarta dedicated to helping families improve the lives of their children. Somos una Asociación Civil sin fines de lucro ubicados en Puerto Vallarta, en el estado de Jalisco en México. http://autismo2.com/ o http://autismo2.com/english.htmlMiracle Mineral Solution http://www.mmsautism.org/, http://www.autismo2.com/PDF/MMS_English.pdf

Curando el Autismo 
Ave. Antonio R. Barceló
Plaza Sierra Cayey
Piso 2 oficina 205
Cayey PR 00737
Direccion Postal:
PMB 1129
PO Box 6400
Cayey PR 00737
Curando el Autismo is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing information about the interventions for Autism in Spanish. 

Fundación Frente al Autismo-CEA, http://frentealautismo.blogsome.com/

Alianza de Autismo De Puerto Rico, http://www.alianzaautismo.blogspot.com/

Texas Autism Research & Resource Center
El sitio web del Centro de Texas de Investigación y Recursos sobre el Autismo (TARRC) ofrece apoyo a personas, familias y profesionales proporcionandoles información completa sobre los trastornos del espectro autista (ASD) y mediante los programas en Texas que brindan servicios esenciales y apoyo a las personas afectadas por los ASD.

Website Builder