I have been talking a lot about things that churches should do to become autism-friendly. I like the positive approach. At the same time, there are things that should be avoided as well. None of these are new, but they are worth reminding of.
- Never use the word “retarded,” even in what you consider an innocent way. It is offensive to parents of special needs children. I cringe at this word more than any swear word I hear.
- Never bring up the vaccine-autism connection. The theory that vaccines cause autism is often in the media but you should never bring it up. There are strong feelings on both sides and very few people in the middle. If a family brings it up, just listen to their feelings.
- Never offer a miracle cure for autism that you have found on the internet. There are many scammers that love to take advantage of desperate autism parents. Most of the “cures” out there are fake at best and dangerous at worst. Plus, the parents probably have heard about it a hundred times before.
- Never assume that an autism family is too busy to be reached out to. Having a child with autism can be very isolating. It is not easy being left out of activities because everyone assumes you are too busy or tired to want to be involved.
- Never, never, never give an autism family the stink eye when a child makes noise in church (this goes beyond autism). Giving a dirty look to the child is not going to make them stop. And it is not like the parents are unaware of the noise that they need your angry face to make them aware. If you want to get rid of a family with autism, just roll out the stink eye.
There are other things to avoid but this is a good start.