Our society has come a long way when it comes to autism awareness. People know more about autism than ever before. But how well do they know people with autism?
As a part of autism awareness month, I challenge everyone to get to know one person with autism. The person could be anywhere on the spectrum. I understand that this can be challenging. Some people with autism have significant communication issues. Some may be considered nonverbal. Some people with autism also can give the impression that they are not interested in interaction. They may avoid eye contact.
None of this is an excuse to not get to know a person with autism. I know from my children, despite the way they may act toward some people, that it is possible to have a relationship with them. I also know from experience that it is possible to get to know other people with autism. They may ignore at first but there is gradual change in the relationship.
The odds are that you are aware of someone with autism. Go beyond being aware and get to know them. This is not something to be completed in a month but is a long journey that will definitely be worth it.
There has been an increase in autism awareness, both in general and in the church. That is a good thing but more is needed. Autism awareness means that people know what autism is and may even have some understanding about what people with autism need.
But more is needed.
It is time to move beyond autism awareness and embrace autism acceptance. Acceptance moves toward intentionally making churches welcoming places for individuals and families with autism.
I have talked with numerous people who have found churches to be unwelcoming to those with autism. Some families have told me that they were informed by their churches that their children were not welcome. Sometimes churches are not that forthright and they respond with negligence.
Churches need to be proactive in welcoming people with autism. We need to go out of our way to not just avoid negative messages but to actually send positive messages. Are we ready for this?
People are more aware of autism in the sense that people know that it is out there and a lot of people have it. But there is still a lot of ignorance about what autism is and how to interact with people.
1. Autism is a spectrum. It is actually called Autism Spectrum Disorder. This means that everyone is different. You will find everyone from that quirky person who is devoted to their hobby to a person with severe cognitive and communication delays.
2. Adults also have autism. Most often I hear about children with autism, but not so often do we hear about adults. Those cute children grow into adults and they still need love and respect.
3. Just because a person with autism looks like they they are ignoring you, does not mean that they don’t hear you. Some people with autism do not like to make eye contact. Others may hum while you are talking to them. But you cannot measure their level of comprehension by what you see on the outside.
4. Autism affects the whole family. It is not just the person with autism that needs care and support. The parents and the siblings are deeply affected by the autism as well.
5. People with autism have value. Our society tends to measure value by what we can do. Some people with autism cannot do some things that others can. Any ability or a lack of ability in some area does not change the value of a human being.
I hope that you will share these five simple things that can really make a difference.
When I think about autism awareness, two things come to mind. One is that I am pleased that autism awareness has increased significantly. In fact there are times when I feel guilty that there is so much emphasis on autism and not enough on other things such as Down Syndrome. Of course the answer is to raise awareness in every area. As I talk to people in churches and other contexts, there are more people who have some idea about autism. There is plenty of work yet to do, but I’m thankful that things are getting better.
Having said that, I come at this not just as an observer but as an autism parent. In my discussions with other parents I have discovered a frustration with just spreading awareness. Awareness is nice but when will people move beyond?
When will people with autism be accepted and respected? When will people with autism be included? When will communities (including churches) see the real needs of families who are dealing with autism?
Reality is that many families who are dealing with autism are in crisis situations. I personally went an entire year with an average three hours of sleep per night. We have had our home destroyed and our other children bloodied. We have had to watch our children with autism completely overcome with frustration because they could not communicate their needs or feelings.
So please be aware. But also find a family to invest in. Provide respite for the family. Take the non-autistic siblings out for a fun time. Go and be present with the family and show love to every member. Even the smallest things can make a difference.
As much as I am interested in apologetics, discipleship and leadership, I am also interested in autism. One of the biggest influences on my life and ministry has been my two children with autism. They teach me so much about God and the things that really matter. Not only that, I recently discovered that I am also on the spectrum.
I have blogged quite a bit about autism over the years. While much of my autism blogging is now done on my autism blog, these are the top five autism post from this site.
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.
In this episode of my video blog, I share a little about the interview I had with Nick Peters for his Deeper Waters podcast. Nick is an apologist and is a person with Asperger Syndrome. He has taken April to focus his podcast on autism awareness. It was an honour to be on his show.
If you want to learn more about autism and the church, check out my autism blog.
April is autism awareness month. As part of this effort to spread awareness, I recorded this short podcast episode explaining some of the things that I am doing in this area. Please take time to listen.
Today is Autism Awareness Day. Individuals and organizations have been working hard to build awareness about autism. I am thankful that awareness is growing.
But what does autism awareness even mean?
The first step is knowing what autism is. Autism is not a disease. Autism not a bad parenting choice. Autism is a disorder. Autism is also a spectrum. The symptoms range form relatively mild to quite severe. Knowing one person with autism does not tell you much about autism in general. Autism affects learning, communication and social interactions. If you know this much, you have made a good start.
The other step is to know people with autism. You cannot be truly autism aware until you are aware of the people who have autism. Autism is not just theoretical, it is about people. When people talk about 1 in 68, I don’t think of statistics, I think of Logan and Abby. People with autism have likes and dislikes, personalities, fears, relationships and everything else that all people have. To be autism aware means that we need to see beyond the label and to see the person.
Happy Autism Awareness Day and I hope that you have become a little more aware today.
Today is April 1 and for many people that just means April Fool’s Day. For me it is the beginning of April, which is an awareness month for two causes that are important to me.
Autism Awareness Month
April is autism awareness month with April 2 as autism awareness day. Two of my children have autism and so this means a lot to me. In some ways, autism awareness has increased significantly. Almost everyone has heard about autism and they know that it is important. But I still have people regularly confess that they have absolutely no idea what autism is. There is still a lot of work to do. I have put together a bulletin insert on autism awareness that you can find here. I would appreciate it of you could encourage your church to include this insert some time this month. Another project I have started is an autism blog that I would like to invite you to visit. I hope that you will take April as a time to learn more about autism and even better, get to know a person with autism.
Sarcoidosis Awareness Month
Almost everyone has heard of autism. The same can not be said for sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis is a rare inflammatory disease that can attack any part of the body but often starts with the lungs. I have sarcoidosis. My story is like so many others. A routine x-ray showed some irregularities in my lungs. I then had quite a few symptoms such as weight loss, joint pain, fatigue, night sweats and so on. At first they were sure I had lymphoma but a biopsy revealed I had sarcoidosis. Some people with sarcoidosis soon become symptom-free while others only increase in physical difficulties. I am not symptom-free but I am coping.
So there you go. April is an important month. I will be posting things on sarcoidosis and autism in various places. I hope that you grow in awareness for both disorders.
April is Autism Awareness Month and April 2 is Autism Awareness Day. What will your church do to acknowledge this?
There has been much work done for autism awareness but there is a lot of work yet to be done. I regularly get asked by people who have no idea about what autism is.
As a result, I have put together this bulletin insert that explains what autism is and how the church can respond. You may not have anyone in your church with autism but you likely have people with family that have autism. Imagine how they would feel if they saw this insert.
If you are a parent with a child with autism, send this link to your pastor or leadership team. Use this as an opportunity to educate your congregation.
There are all sorts of possibilities for this. So please download this autism awareness bulletin insert and show your congregation and community that you care about autism.