One of my goals is to equip churches to minister to families dealing with disabilities, especially autism. I have an ebook planned on this very topic.
This post is aimed at the mid-sized to small church that suddenly has a family with a child with autism attending. What is it that the church needs to know?
1. Not every child with autism is the same. You may have known a child or had a family member with autism. Do not assume that the child attending your church is the same. It would be safer to assume that the child is different.
2. Anticipate safety concerns. Not every child with autism has safety concerns but it is better to be prepared. Find out if they can be aggressive to others or if they tend to run. If so, put a plan into place.
3. Do not assume that non-verbal means unintelligent. Some children with autism do not communicate with verbal language (either by ability or choice). That does not mean that they are incapable of learning.
4. The siblings need ministry. Often it is the child with autism that gets the attention. If that child has siblings, this is an opportunity for the church to minister. Make the effort to give them the attention they need.
5. The parents need ministry. It is exhausting (physically, mentally, spiritually) to parent a child with autism. Try to arrange date nights for the parents. Look for practical ways to make their life easier.
6. Children with autism make noise. I know that people like a nice peaceful and tranquil worship service but children with autism make noise. The glare you give during the service will not make a difference. The child will not notice or will not care.
7. The family did not come to find a cure for autism. There are dozens of “cures” for autism floating around the internet. There is no need to pass these on to the family. They are much more informed about autism than you are. The family came to worship God and have fellowship with people.
If a family with autism has started attending your church that is a great thing because it is much easier to stay home. The best thing to do is welcome them and love them. They have made themselves vulnerable to the church, please respect that trust.