I am encouraged by the number of pastors and churches that have talked to me about being autism-friendly. How can a church become more welcoming to families that have autism? Here are the ten commandments. Forgive the lack of King James language.
1. See people with autism not as a goal to be achieved or a mission to be accomplished but as people to be loved, respected and accepted.
2. Learn about autism by reading books and websites, as well as talking with families with autism.
3. See autism ministry not just about the person with autism, but ministry to the entire family , including parents and siblings.
4. Stop seeing a worship service as being the perfect performance and embrace the sights and sounds that go with autism.
5. Do not judge a person with autism by one other person with autism that you have met. If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.
6. Do not ask a person with autism what their savant ability is. While some people with autism are savants, the majority are not. If they have an ability they want to share, they will tell you.
7. Do not share the secret cure for autism that you read about on the internet. There are plenty of scams out there and families know more about these things than you do.
8. Do not assume that a nonverbal person with autism has a low intelligence or that they can’t understand what you are saying. They may be more intelligent than you and likely understand every word you are saying.
9. Discuss with families any concerns about safety, whether the person with autism is likely to run off or how they might react to others during a meltdown.
10. Pray for the families with autism. While autism is not the end of the world, it is difficult and exhausting. Just be prepared in case God decides to use you as the answer to prayer.
I will include a pdf version of these ten commandments here for you to give to the leadership in your church.