Shelly Christensen, an author, speaker, and expert on disability inclusion in faith communities, is the guest on this week’s Seekers of Meaning Podcast.
About the Guest
Shelly Christensen never intended to be an award winning consultant, speaker, and author in the faith community disability inclusion field. As a budding writer, she penned her first play in fifth grade, and was an editor and writer for her high school newspaper. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in journalism and then her life took a decidedly different turn when her son was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and eventually with Asperger syndrome.
Shelly met the challenges of public school education with an intuitive passion, often saying, “Kids have one crack at an education, and no one is going to take that away from my kid!” After an initial stint as a headstrong and obstinate parent, Shelly learned the arts of collaboration, advocacy, and respect to build a strong parent-school relationship. This worked much better!
Shelly directed the Jewish Community Inclusion Program for People with Disabilities at Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis for thirteen years. The same passion that guided her as a parent was the impetus for innovation as she led Jewish community organizations to move toward inclusion and acceptance of people with disabilities and their loved ones.
Shelly is a leader in the growing faith community disability inclusion movement. She is an international speaker and consultant to numerous faith communities and faith-based organizations. Shelly’s newest book, From Longing to Belonging-A Practical Guide to Including People with Disabilities and Mental Health Conditions in Your Faith Community, is a resource for any faith-based organization that values participation and inclusion for each and every person. Shelly is co-founder of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM) recognized in February and consults with faith community organizations to welcome, support and invite all people to share their gifts with the community.
Shelly and her husband Rick live in Minneapolis, MN with their Shelties, Penina and Caleb. They are the parents of Aaron and Nancy, Jacob, and Zachary, and grandparents to their four heart-stealing grandchildren, Eli, Isaac, and twins Anna and Eve.