Autism and Faith

A spiritual life can be an important aspect of one’s overall wellness and contentment. Those living with autism have the same desire and need for spirituality but some may feel they are not able to actively participate in their place of worship. Some individuals with autism and their families may feel the role of faith is more significant when facing the additional challenges that a developmental disability can bring. A faith community can be a cornerstone for spiritual support, and oftentimes serves as a social center, bringing its families together for fun, education, and respite. Additionally, a variety of ministries and volunteer opportunities invite members to contribute their time and talents to give back to the community in a meaningful way. Families affected by autism sometimes feel isolated and may resist attempting something new or attending functions/activities because they worry that they may not be welcomed, even at a place of worship. A congregation who celebrates all abilities offers a warm welcome to those who have grown hesitant and weary by exclusion and misunderstanding.

The Autism Society’s Faith Initiative
The Autism Faith Initiative intends to create autism friendly environments in all places of worship.

Our work strives to:
• Prayerfully come together as a nation to support those affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families.
• Increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of those affected by ASD, and their families, within their own communities of faith.
• Educate and equip communities of faith to better serve those affected by ASD.
• Encourage communities of faith to partner with and meet the physical and spiritual needs of individuals with ASD and their families.
• Honor individuals with ASD as vital contributors to a thriving community of faith.

Support for a Family in Crisis
In today’s challenging economic times, many families are turning to faith communities for more than spiritual guidance and religious instruction.  Reduced finances and additional stress can amount to significant concerns.  For families dealing with autism, the challenges they face are compounded by complex systems, long waiting lists, shrinking government budgets and organizations forced to limit support or terminate disability services altogether. More families are finding themselves in jeopardy, challenged to meet basic family needs. When a family is in crisis, they may not participate regularly (or at all) in weekly services, and therefore may not consider the worship center as a viable resource and are more isolated. The Autism Society’s Faith Initiative brings awareness and support to a wide variety of faith communities so they can better understand autism and its effect on the entire family. A place of worship becomes much more approachable by families who are welcomed and included within the faith community, enjoying membership in good times, and feeling more connected at times of need.

Sign up to receive updates on the Faith Initiative and information on an upcoming 2014 Prayer Weekend.

The Autism Society and its Faith Initiative have created a  for families, faith leaders and places of worship to help nurture the relationship between families and faith communities so families may find greater comfort taking part in their selected faith.

Have you found a book, website or other faith-based tool that has been helpful to you, your family or your faith community?  If so, let us know! Please email information to Rose Jochum: rjochum@autism-society.org