As I write this post, it is World Autism Awareness Day (April 2). Today at a church retreat, I had a conversation with another autism parent. We were discussing about how things were going with autism awareness.
It certainly is much better. More people are aware of autism than ever before. This makes sense when the numbers go up to 1 in 68 children being diagnosed with autism. Major news networks regularly report on autism. People know that there is such a thing as autism.
Of course awareness in the general population does translate into awareness within the church. Christians now that autism exists and that it is a challenge for many families.
But is this enough?
I would suggest that churches have not done near enough. They may be autism aware, but are they autism friendly? How do churches respond when families with autism begin to attend? How do people react when a child or adult with autism gives a squawk during a worship service? Do churches understand that there is major need for ministry, not just with the person with autism, but with the parents and siblings as well?
I am thankful that I pastor a church that is autism friendly. They are not autism friendly because I’m the pastor. They got it long before they ever heard of me.
I have seen some encouraging signs in other churches. In the past number of years I have received an increasing number of messages by pastors looking for help in become more autism friendly. I love that leaders are being proactive and intentional in ministering to families with autism.
Of course there is always room for more. So today, work on the autism awareness. But then go on to build a culture of autism friendliness.
One resource I have put together is a bulletin insert on autism awareness for churches to use. You can find it on my Free Stuff page of my website.