5 Things Pastors Need to Know About Autism

AutismI have been contacted by a number of pastors lately about autism. I’m impressed with pastors who are proactive in seeking information.

The truth is that it is important know something about autism before a family with autism shows up at the church.

As a pastor and as a father of two children with autism, I understand the importance of being ready for some exciting ministry. Here are five basic concepts that will make the arrival of a family with autism go much smoother.

  1. If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism. Do not judge a person with autism based on another person you have met. Not only is there a spectrum from mild to severe, even two people on the same end of the spectrum can be very different.
  2. Some people with autism may have safety issues. Some people with autism are runners and they need to be protected from escaping. Others may react inappropriately to other children or adults when they have a meltdown, Find out what their triggers are.
  3. There is a need for ministry to the rest of the family. The parents are likely physically and emotionally exhausted. The siblings may have received less attention from their parents and have added responsibilities with helping out the family.
  4. People with autism may make noises whenever they feel like it. Those who are nonverbal (what is nonverbal?) may script movies or use echolalia (repeat what they just heard). Those who are verbal will say what they feel like without consideration of the context.
  5. Many people with autism think in very concrete ways. Using symbols, images and abstract concepts do not work well when explaining the faith. Try to keep things as concrete as possible.

I have written How to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly as a resource for churches. It is available in print and Kindle. Please also check out my disability blog.


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