As World Autism Month, April is dedicated to increasing awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The Autism Society, the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization, launched the observance month to “promote autism awareness, inclusion and self-determination for all, and assure that each person with ASD is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life.” If you know someone with ASD, you know the stigma and struggles they face. You also realize that the services and support for individuals with ASD can range depending on the age and community individuals with ASD live in.
For those who are unacquainted with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), it includes a wide range of conditions characterized by difficulties with social interactions, impaired verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behavior. Children with autism face unique challenges children and teenagers with autism face as well as their unique abilities and strengths. They also find it difficult to establish and maintain friendships and often face higher rates of bullying from elementary school all the way to high school.
Leading autism expert Dr. Temple Grandin has spent years sharing her story and helping educators, school administrators, and community leaders, develop a deeper understanding of neurodiversity and how they can help students reach their fullest potential. Her story was made famous by the 2010 movie “Temple Grandin.” (You can stream it on many video apps.)
Faith is a very important part of life for so many families in the autism community. Many of these families often feel held back from becoming a part of their religious community because of their child’s diagnosis. They might feel excluded, or just assume that they won’t be supported or accepted. What can we at Trinity do to keep individuals with ASD and their families feel safe and at home within our congregation?
First, we need to be informed. By learning about ASD and understanding the strengths of individuals with ASD and the concept of neurodiversity, we can see how God helps us all appreciate His sovereignty even in a broke world. Individuals with ASD are saved in the same way that all people without ASD are saved: by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The same gospel is life-giving for individuals with and without ASD. In God’s eyes, individuals with ASD are as precious and loved by God as any other human being. Difference does not mean less than. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27–28, NIV)
Our hope is that all families affected by autism may feel welcomed at Trinity and be empowered to become active participants in our faith community.
See you next time, here at the corner of faith and mental health.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Chad Wright