The Parker J Cole Show — How to Make Your Church Autistic Friendly

When my nephew was about two years old, at some point, we realized that he wasn’t talking. He would mumble incoherently. The kids at church in the nursery, when he attempted to speak, did not understand him. Concerned about this, we took him to the doctor and we discovered he had autism.

I had no idea what that meant. I’d heard of autism. In fact, there was another child who had it at the church too. So I knew of it but what did it mean? Through early intervention, counseling, and other methods, he is growing up to be able to interact with people and develop interpersonal relationships. Yet, some of the children at the church (where most of his time spent) were standoffish toward him. For a while even, there was some bullying involved too. As an auntie, this upset me (more than I can put here in this box) but it made me realize that churches need to be sensitive to children and adults who have various brain disorders.

According to AutismSpeaks.org, “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development.” Furthermore, “..1 in 68 American children as on the autism spectrum–a ten-fold increase in prevalence in 40 years.” Chances are, there will be a child in your congregation who has autism. What can a congregation do to make their church autistic friendly?

Join me as I discuss this with Stephen J. Bedard of Hope’s Reason Ministries. Call in at 646-595-2083, press 1 to be live on air. Click on the link here:http://tobtr.com/s/7920617, or download the mobile app. Tune in!

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2 responses to “The Parker J Cole Show — How to Make Your Church Autistic Friendly

  1. I have a child with autism, so I understand well the way you feel about your nephew’s rejection. Churches do need to do better about creating an environment that welcomes all God’s children. Some years back my family was visiting churches in search of a new church home. I walked away from several churches because of the way they responded to simple requests regarding my child. When I say simple I mean things like, “Please look directly at him when you speak to him or he may not understand you”, or halfway through class if you don’t mind asking him if he needs to use the restroom, so we don’t have an accident.” These requests were met with blank stares and even an eyeroll or two. I was quite disappointed.

    What I have learned from being in several special needs support groups is that many of the parents just opt to stay at home with their children rather than attempt to navigate the church system or risk outright rejection. Jesus weeps. It’s concerning that with the number of children that have special needs that churches aren’t more proactive about training volunteers. In hindsight, I think it was probably my job to educate the leadership of the churches I visited, so they could respond to the staffs shortcomings. After-all, my son was 4, newly diagnosed and even I didn’t understand autism at that point. How would I expect others to?

    • Great insight. That was one of the things Stephen talked about is that churches do need to develop a plan if they want to be able to successfully help those among us who may have this and other disorders. And because autism has such a wide spectrum of symptoms, it’s important for the church to educate itself and for there to be open communication. Thanks so much for your comment.

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