The Autism Opportunity Easily Missed by Churches
My observation of churches is that there is an increase in awareness and compassion about autism. The media has really brought autism to the forefront and a variety of advocacy groups have promoted autism awareness. Many people in our churches are related to or at least know someone with autism.
When a Family comes into a church with a person with severe autism, there seems to be a sincere desire to help the individual and the family. Leaders speak to parents and teams brainstorm as to how to make their church more autism-friendly.
But what about people with “mild” autism?
Mild autism, once known as Asperger’s Syndrome, is just as much a need as severe autism. I’m confident that you have such people in your church and you don’t even know it.
These are the people that are just socially awkward. They have some interests that they will talk about all the time to anyone who will listen. They may be quite intelligent, especially in certain areas, but may struggle with having a “normal” conversation.
They may or may not have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. They may be children, teens or adults. They may be on the fringes of your church community.
Just because they can speak and do well in school doesn’t mean that they not need ministry. In fact, sometimes people with mild autism struggle more than people with severe autism. The person with severe autism might not realize how different they are (or don’t care), while the person with mild autism is painfully aware.
It is up to churches to be proactive by reaching out and connecting with them, no matter how difficult it may seem at first. Get to know their interests. Look past their awkwardness.
Don’t miss out on this autism opportunity.
I added a chapter on mild autism in my book, How to Make Your Church Autism Friendly.