Four Ways Churches can Welcome Autism Families

BY: - 23 Sep '14 | Home

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Facing Autism on BMWK

When I was growing up, skipping church was not an option. Now that I am a parent, I want my seven-year old son to grow up in the church. As a child on the autism spectrum, attending church can be difficult for him. We have had more stressful church experiences than peaceful ones. Many of our Sundays have been spent in the church lobby because he would get overwhelmed due to his behavioral and sensory challenges.

Then there are the glares and stares from fellow church goers who just want us to shut our kid up. I know that there will always be some old school church members who feel that children should be able to sit still for two hours. However this attitude of intolerance will only keep some autism families home on Sundays.

During our last church visit, my son was off the hook and yes there were times I teared up because the emotional rollercoaster was too much to handle. Then one of the Sunday school teachers told us to please bring him back and to continue to expose him to the church environment. In that moment, I felt a glimmer of hope. We may not go every Sunday because it can be a lot for him but we will certainly make an effort to go more often.

Parents please speak up and let your pastor know that your child is on the autism spectrum. Be willing to let ushers know and tell them what accommodations your child needs. My experiences have prompted me to come up with a list of ways that churches can make their environment welcoming to autism families.

1. Have an autism-friendly service once a month. You can consult with professionals and organizations that can provide guidance on how this can be done and the accommodations that will be needed. Some of them may include adjusting the lighting and noise level, allowing children to move around freely if they need sensory breaks, and shortening the length of the service.

2. Have an autism-friendly Sunday school or child care. Utilize the members of your congregation who may be special education teachers and/or therapists to help out with Sunday school or child care. This can help parents feel more at ease with having their kids participate in this part of the church experience because they will know that their child is in the hands of someone who gets it.

3. Educate your congregation about autism. Once you have knowledge that some of the members of your congregation have autism, you can consult with professionals who can come in and provide information and resources. You can even invite the parent of the child to speak to the congregation. This is a good chance for parents and the church to work as partners. You can also add the following statement to the church program: Some members may have special needs, including autism. This can affect their behavior and ability to socialize and communicate. Please be understanding. 

4. Set the tone as the leaders in the church. During a recent trip to church, the pastor told the congregation to let my son be free when he wanted to sit on her chair at the altar. She made us feel welcome and her words let others know that my child is welcome there like any other child. This reminded me of when Jesus said in Matthew 19:14, “…let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

BMWK: What can churches do to make the church experience more welcoming for your child with autism? 

About the author

Kpana Kpoto wrote 38 articles on this blog.

Kpana Kpoto, also known as Miz Kp, is a special needs advocate and blogger. She provides resources and support for autism parents through her blog, Sailing Autistic Seas and her support group, Bronx Parents Autism Support Circle. Kpana lives in New York City with her husband and only child, six-year old "Angel" who is conquering autism one milestone at a time.

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6 WordPress comments on “Four Ways Churches can Welcome Autism Families

  1. Pingback: Four Ways Churches can Welcome Autism Families | KCEP-FM

  2. Qnet

    ‘This week, I will only drink one beer on Friday night, saving myself
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  3. Irene Cartagena

    Hi,Kpana

    Wondering if churches can at some point assist with families that do not have Medicaid in after school programs at least for physical activities in the Bronx or Queens? It’s a shame how our system doesn’t provide the adequate assistance and parents find themselves eyeing thru pages of info or researches that at times lead no where , very sad…

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The One Question You Should Ask Your Spouse Regularly

BY: - 25 Sep '14 | Home

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The month of September is like one big celebration every year: two out of three babies born this month and the union that brought those babies together is celebrated. It’s always amazing to reflect and see how much we’ve grown over the last year both as a couple and as individuals. And when we look at the number of couples who got married within the last nine years like we did, but didn’t make it, we’re very grateful for our union.

Marriage requires getting to know your spouse, what drives him/her and what ignites their inner fire. It’s about really getting to know them over and over again. But in order to do that, there is one question you should ask your spouse regularly. And that question is: Are we okay?

This one sentence, these simple three words could mean the difference between spending your 20th anniversary still happily in love or spending it happily divorced. I know it’s been mentioned on this site several times before, but the problem with a lot of couples who grow apart or fall out of love, is that they got too comfortable. They assumed everything was okay because their spouse never said otherwise. Only, they didn’t know their spouse was waiting for them to say something. So the cycle continues until they look at each other without realizing how they got to twenty years and no longer want to be married. We’ve both known and read about couples like this, and we vow to each other not to fall into the same category.

When you ask your spouse, “Are we okay?” be open. Be open to wherever the conversation leads (and understand that you may have to lead it). Be open to bringing up past hurts that were never properly addressed, so that you can address them and release the grudges once and for all. Be open to knowing that your spouse may very well not feel that everything is okay. But the good thing is that you’re talking about it so that you can take care of what is not okay and make it great.

We’ve had so many friends both in our personal and professional lives that just didn’t make it, even those we just knew would be “okay” until the end. But what wasn’t okay, was that the communication wasn’t there. The transparency, and feeling secure enough to be transparent wasn’t there. It’s heartbreaking to see people you love end their marriages. But every time we see or hear it happening, it opens up a new line of communication for us. It forces us to open up about where we are in that moment, and how we’re feeling in our marriage. It forces us to ask the question: Are we okay? And then allowing open and honest communication around what we can do to continue to build a strong, loving and lasting marriage that we’ll still love twenty, thirty and forty plus years from now.

Nine years married and fifteen years together, and we’re blessed to still be in love, and still feel that we will always be okay.

BMWK: Do you have regular check-in conversations with your spouse to make sure you’re on the same page?

About the author

Christine St. Vil wrote 153 articles on this blog.

Christine St.Vil is co-author of the Whose Shoes Are Your Wearing: 12 Steps to Uncovering the Woman You Really Want to Be. A happy wife to an amazing hubby of 8 years, and homeschooling mother of three, she teaches moms how to FLY (First Love Yourself). She uses her corporate background to work with women who are ready to start a new business, accelerate their career growth & design a life they love. She's on a mission to help moms to battle the mom guilt epidemic, so they can begin to put themselves first on their never-ending list of priorities.

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