Accessible Worship: Resources for Participants (All Ages) Who Have Autism

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I have seen visual schedules and similar tools used in education settings, but a as a layperson, I confess that I am not clear on how they are used and how they help.

I was recently directed to the work that a parent did to create a visual schedule that supported her son in navigating the liturgy in their Greek Orthodox congregation. Her son has autism and is mostly non-verbal.  

I could see developing such a resource for use as needed in our congregation's Young Children and Worship ministry. I can also see the value in having such a schedule available to anyone who attends our congregation's regular Sunday worship. (We have an existing station with various resources to support worshippers. Right now that cart includes page markers, CEV Bibles, drawing materials and a small booklet designed to encourage reflective engagement.)

I also wonder if meaningful visuals could be embedded directly in the printed liturgy.

I would love to learn from the experiences and questions of others, on this topic. Thanks!

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Hi Valerie, thanks so much for your question, and for the interest you and your congregation have in providing a wide welcome to people.  I've heard of other churches also putting icons in their orders of worship to help anyone who is non-literate to better following along. (So these icons are a good example of universal design for worship.) Some also will use the same icons in their powerpoint slides as an additional connection. Here are some ideas in answer to your question.

Disability Concerns has posted a variety of resources on autism on the Network. For more specific ideas about autism and worship, see the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship's resources on autism. I also always recommend that churches purchase a copy of Autism and Your Church, so that leaders in the church are well-equipped to minister with children with autism and their parents. Two other ideas, many people with autism and other developmental disabilities find social stories to be helpful especially if the child or adult will be encountering something new. I just discovered this Youtube series, Ask an Autistic. The host who has autism, Amythest Schaber, describes common behaviors of people with autism that most of us neurotypical people find puzzling. I only watched one episode, so this is not an endorsement, but it the episode I watched was helpful. 

I'm hoping that others will have additional ideas for you. Anyone?