The Church and Autism
This is blog post #2 in my series: “The _______ and Autism”
First was “The Government and Autism” and I have thoughts of writing about Public Schools, Insurance Companies, the Private Sector…if you have any ideas or topics you want me to spew about…just let me know. Always looking for good topics where I can pretend I’m an “expert.” ” />
The church my family attends is literally a God-send. For those of you who don’t attend a church or don’t have a church family…get one. Of course variety of reasons but when it comes to having a special needs child, you need a group that will support you…and for us, our church is such a group.
I’ve heard horror stories of people being asked to leave a church service or the church entirely because they have a child on the spectrum…and that makes me sick.
For us, informing our church about our son, who has autism, was such a blessing and relief. It wasn’t always like that. We tried to “hide” our son thinking it was a learning delay or just the way 2-year-old children act…but when we finally let people know, many people came and walked alongside us and supported us and for that we are eternally grateful.
As a whole…from what I’ve seen/experienced/heard…the church is failing the autism community.
Hard pill to swallow isn’t it? Again…the church is FAILING the autism community.
Now I know there are programs and churches out there that have a “Special Needs Ministry”…not sure how I feel about that…why does a group that is already stigmatized need to be further stigmatized and segregated from typical members in the church? But I do applaud those churches out there that at least attempt to meet those special needs members where they are.
I realized my frustration when we started promoting our book, “Look At My Eyes.” My wife and I are open and vocal about our faith in Christ and how our faith and dependence on Him through the early stages of learning about our son’s diagnosis allowed us to deal with it as best we could. We discuss what our relationship with Christ means to us in our lives, our marriage and our raising our children…and it’s all in the book.
I was surprised to receive such a “mehhh” response from churches across the DFW-Metroplex when we approached them about having us visit and speak and sell books. I researched all the large churches and wrote them letters (not emails!) and sent them books.
Our goal has never been to make money off the book. We’re so in the hole it’s not even funny–and that’s okay because we wrote the book to bless others going through similar situations. We wrote the book to help as many people as possible…not make a buck.
So here we are…giving churches our book, telling them we’d love to come and speak FOR FREE, to help minister as much as possible to families, to help train Sunday School teachers, nursery workers, administrators, members…anyone in the church who might need or just want to know how to help the autism community in their congregation.
Do you know how many churches took us up on that? Two. I probably sent out 20 books. Two. And one of those was our church. The other bought 4 books and that was about it.
Bitter? Heck yeah I’m bitter! The autism community is not being served or paid attention by the church and that’s a shame.
When our son was younger and we’d visit a friend’s or family’s church we were horrified to take William to the nursery. He didn’t have the ability to sit with us in the church service, but it was such an ordeal trying to explain to these nursery workers how to handle him if he has an episode or whatever.
Finally we just stopped going to churches where we didn’t know the nursery staff.
And that’s a shame.
The church needs to do a better job at educating their ministers, teachers, workers how to handle the simplest of situations. The church needs to offer training and support to parents of families with special needs children.
The church needs to encourage “typical” members to engage with those other members who might be a bit different.
What if a young family moved to a new town and had a child on the spectrum and was looking for a church family to call home…so they start looking around and one Sunday they try one and when they drop off their child for Sunday School or Children’s Church they either have to explain how to handle their child or are so embarrassed they just get up and leave?
That’s not what the church is all about. That’s not making all comers feel safe and secure.
Shame on you church for not doing everything possible to make people feel at home. Shame on you church for not taking the time to teach your child workers the basics of how to relate and handle a child with autism. Shame on you church for not taking advantage of free resources to teach your congregation how to love and cherish those on the spectrum.
Melanie and I don’t have all the answers. We are definitely not experts on all things autism. BUT I think we have something to say and I think it could help those dealing with life with a child on the spectrum.
We’d love to share our story, our book, our ideas and mostly our faith with your church. Together we can discuss how to make the church a safe and attractive place for families thirsty to hear the good new of Jesus Christ and to know their autistic child will be loved.