Statistics tell us that the autism rates are extremely high. According to the Autism Society of America, 1 out of every 88 births have autism. I would guarantee that the rates of children with autism in church are much lower than this. Although my family had a great experience today, we rarely are able to attend church as a family because of our children with autism. The fact is that most families that are dealing with autism do not feel comfortable attending church. Are the churches okay with this? Whether a church intends to or not, they are making decisions on how they will respond to people with autism. Here are a list of options, roughly from least desirable to most desirable with regard to the church’s attitude toward people with autism.
1. The church is comfortable excluding families with autism as this decision makes ministry run smoother and worship services more peaceful.
2. The church is happy to have families dealing with autism attend services as long as they make their own arrangements to leave the child with autism at home.
3. The church welcomes the entire family dealing with autism but expects the child with autism to act like they do not have autism during the service.
4. The church acknowledges that the autistic person will act a certain way but they still respond with glares and dirty looks when their peaceful worship is disturbed.
5. The church provides care for the child with autism by assigning a person to spend time with them one-on-one during the service.
6. The church welcomes the family, hears strange sounds at certain times during the service and yet is patient and even celebrates their inclusivity.
Churches are already making one of these choices, even if they are not conscious about it. As a church you need to look at the options and make sure you are comfortable that your decision is the one God would have for you.