Inclusion of the Autism Population in Churches, Schools and Communities
There is a population of individuals classified as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This group of people should be included in places of worship, the schools they attend and the communities where they reside. Consequently, they are sometimes excluded from some occurrences that others experience.
Utilizing personal stories (of successes and sometimes failures), ASD parent interviews and research, I will offer suggestions for inclusion and enlighten the areas where there tends to be exclusion. My focus is the church and how church leaders may become involved in the lives of ASD parishioners to enhance inclusion in not only the church, but the school and the community as well.
My research shows that ASD parents would like their children to experience church as they have. Although willing, most churches, may lack the ability to oblige for various reasons. Schools where inclusion is not encouraged, rests primarily on the shoulders of the principals. Like pastors in churches, principals in schools have influence and can spearhead inclusion efforts in their respective entities. Community entities are willing to accommodate ASD clientele and have done so when approached to comply.
I contend where any of these entities are not willing to foster inclusion, then the church can and most often should become involved to assist, with the necessary training. In other words, the church must do what the church has always done – stand up for those who are unable to do so for themselves.
Keywords: Autism, church, community, inclusion, parents, school
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