April 2 was World Autism Day and many organizations in the U.S. mark April as Autism Awareness month. You may have read the statistics. Not that many years ago about 1 in 10,000 people were diagnosed with autism; now it's closer to 1 in 100 who are diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder.
Autism affects real people and real families. Healthy churches not only seek to accommodate people with autism and families, but also to embrace them as indispensable members of the body of Christ. Here are some resources that will help you and your church:
- Autism and Your Church, by Barbara J. Newman: the best resource available for churches on inclusion of children and youth with autism in faith communities. From Friendship Ministries.
- Autism and Faith: A Journey into Community, ed. by Walsh, Walsh, and Gaventa: this FREE download is a collection of essays on including children and adults in the life of a faith community.
- Breaking Barriers, the newsletter of Christian Reformed Disability Concerns, did an entire issue on autism several years ago.
- Autism and Children's Ministry: a webinar available from Friendship Ministries.
- Including People with Disabilities in Faith Communities, by Eric W. Carter: not just about inclusion of people with autism, but full of excellent ideas, worksheets, and other resources for inclusion of children and adults.
- Helping Kids Include Kids with Disabilities, by Barbara J. Newman: gives teachers practical tips for helping students welcome kids who have disabilities into their classes at church or at school.
Many websites provide good, basic information:
- The Gray Center: Carol Gray's social stories approach would be especially useful for helping children and adults with autism to learn about worship, Sunday school, and other aspects of church life.
- Autism Speaks, the Autism Society, and Autism Canada Foundation all provide good information.
Awareness about autism is good, but welcoming people with autism into church life and relationships helps churches better reflect the wide diversity of God's people, and unleashes people with autism to use their giftedness in the service of God's kingdom.