Autism and the Church

bright lights & rock bands – not for persons with autism

Autism and the Church This is a sad report by a pastor’s wife who has a son with autism; she speaks of ostracism, bright lights, and rock bands. Lord willing, not all churches are this way but apparently enough churches are like this for her to bemoan the situation. On a positive note, she has a lot of good suggestions for welcoming and helping families with children who have severe disabilities.

When Church Hurts This written by another mother of a child with autism about the Church and the sensory issues that are barriers for people with autism. She seems to be writing about churches with loud bands and strobe lights, which, thank God, Orthodox Churches don’t have. But she also writes about her son’s difficulties in Sunday School:

. . . even louder kids, confusing social situations, worse smells, a teacher that keeps asking him to read aloud, answer questions, engage in crafts. He can hear the other kid’s pencils and crayons as they move across the worksheet – the sound of a writing instrument on paper is more searing than the loudest noise all morning. It’s like a drilling noise, in his ear, constant and overwhelming.

I have read writings by an Orthodox Christian with autism that extol the multi-sensory nature of Orthodox Christian worship. But from observations in my own Parish and from these posts by mothers of children with autism, I’m wondering if this holds true across the spectrum. We would not want to alter our Apostolic Tradition in order to accommodate each and every person’s preferences or sensory orientation, but we can look at our local traditions and adjust them toward the salvation of each, including children and adults with more severe autism. We have been called by our Lord Jesus to go the extra mile.

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