Special Needs: Autism Awareness

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Autism is a developmental
disability affecting communication and social interaction that
affects one in every 150 children in the U.S. And families are
looking to the church for support. Here are ways that you can
help.

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Sensory Issues of Autism
Vary

Some children with autism don’t like to be touched or to make eye
contact. Others love to be cuddled and may seem rude by getting in
your face. Both of these behaviors are part of this wide-spectrum
disorder. When making new contact, watch and follow the child’s
lead. Ask parents how to best interact with their children; they’ll
appreciate your effort.

Making Sense of Autism

This video series includes study guides that can be taught as a
half-day seminar or a four-week class. Hosted by author and
disability advocate, Joni Eareckson Tada, it features advice from
parents, pastors, experts, and teachers who are addressing the
issues of autism as Christ’s followers. To learn more, visit joniandfriendstv.org.

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Support for Autism

Autism is a developmental disability affecting
communication and social interaction that affects one in every 150
children in the U.S. And families are looking to the church for
support. A good way to begin is by participating in National Autism
Awareness Month. Since 1970 the Autism Society has designated April
as a special opportunity to educate the public about autism issues.
Whether sponsoring a day at the zoo or hosting a community health
fair, churches are finding ways to participate in National Autism
Awareness Month. Here’s what you can do.

• Learn about autism. Log onto “Learn the Signs.
Act Early” (cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/index.html)
for informational materials on developmental milestones for
parents, healthcare providers, and caregivers.

• Teach a small group study on autism. Use the
study guides from the DVD series Making Sense of Autism
(joniandfriendstv.org).
This study takes you into the lives of families affected by autism
to witness their joys and frustrations.

• Host an event. Plan a health fair at your
church or an event such as “Bounce for Autism” (
bounceforautism.org
) that combines family fun with raising
awareness and support for autism.

• Show your colors. Wear an autism awareness
puzzle bracelet to show your support. To purchase autism awareness
items, visit
Autism-Society.org/store
.

• Pray for children with autism. Send your church
prayer team regular requests from families who have an autistic
child, and always share answers to prayer.

• Spread awareness. The Autism Society has free
downloadable posters to help your church learn about autism.
“Growing Up Together” is a popular pamphlet that teaches typical
kids how much fun they can have with their friends on the autism
spectrum. Visit
autism-society.org/shop_downloads
for these free
materials.

National Autism Awareness Month may not sound like a church
outreach, but it can be. As Christians, we can offer the love of
Jesus and the warmth of a loving and welcoming church community to
all families.

Pat Verbal is co-author of Special Needs-Special Ministry
(Group) and manager of curriculum development at the Christian
Institute on Disability (joniandfriends.org).

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