Catechizing Children with Special Needs

While in Cleveland recently, I had a nice conversation with a husband and wife catechist team who catechize children with special needs. I have great admiration for people who dedicate themselves to this challenging yet wonderful ministry. It was the first opportunity I had to tell people personally about a brand new resource designed for catechizing children with special needs. It is the Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit from Loyola Press.

Adaptive First Eucharist

I had the privilege of doing a catechetical review on this product and I just fell in love with it. It is extraordinarily beautiful in its simplicity…a reminder to all of us that the God of mystery makes himself known to us in the simplest of ways.

The story behind this product is incredibly inspiring. It began as 14-year-old Brian Rizzo’s 2008 Eagle Scout Project as he developed a special needs library at his parish, inspired by his younger sister Danielle who has autism. Working with his parents, they developed a series of learning tools to be used by children preparing to celebrate First Eucharist. The tools help catechists to ensure that children with special needs meet the USCCB requirements for First Eucharist which are the ability to distinguish the Holy Eucharist from ordinary food and to receive the Eucharist reverently. Loyola Press proudly and happily developed the Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit based on Brendan’s work. While I’ve not met Brendan, I had the privilege of meeting his parents and his sister Danielle…what a wonderful family!

Here’s Brian Rizzo and his Dad, David Rizzo, along with Danielle, telling the story in their own words.


I encourage anyone who is doing First Eucharist preparation with children who have special needs to take a look at this wonderful new resource.


About Joe Paprocki 2751 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

5 Comments on Catechizing Children with Special Needs

  1. Thank you to the Rizzo family and Loyola for developing their idea. I ordered a set as soon as I saw the announcement a few weeks ago, but it’s great to hear the story behind the resource. I can’t wait to get a kit. We have 2 children with autism in our RE program now – one doing home school and one coming to class. I’m happy to have something concrete that I can show parents and say “Let’s try this.”

  2. I created The Lord’s Prayer, The Hail Mary and The Act Contrition, through boardmaker, for special needs 1st graders years ago (I still use and share it). Is this only for 1st Communion/1st Reconcillation preparation or has a library of Catholic Faith Education been developed for special needs kids (who are not in SPREAD).

    Thank you!

    • Hi Wendy and thanks for sharing about your ministry to children with special needs. This particular product offered by Loyola Press is strictly First Eucharist. The mention of a libray of resources for special needs is something that was done by Brian Rizzo in his own parish as part of his Eagle Scout project.

  3. Alleluia!!! Another great tool for kids to learn in another way!! I ordered these and cannot wait for them to arrive for our 20 special needs kids who are in our special needs PSR program!! I suggested to the Loyola representive I talked to that Loyola could also do this with Confirmation, too!! That would be awesome, too!! Anyone up for the challenge there at Loyola?!! 🙂

    • It is a wonderful resource, Michelle and I’m glad it will help with your ministry. I’ll pass along your suggestion about a Confirmation resource.

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