The Autism-Friendly Church

Workers found Benjamin, a 10-year-old boy with autism, wandering around a Fort Lauderdale emergency room, wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt with the words “Chill Out” across the front. Benjamin’s mother abandoned him at the hospital because she didn’t know what else to do. She told a circuit judge that she suffered from bipolar disorder and was too overwhelmed to care for her son. Her attorney explained that she wasn’t a bad parent—just an unemployed, single mom of three who needed help.

Benjamin’s story shows the extreme challenges that come with caring for a child with autism. I would hope our churches would be communities where families like Benjamin’s could find love and support. Yet children and families affected by autism present a difficulty for pastors. Church leaders want to show warmth and hospitality, but often don’t know how to meet the unique needs of people with this disorder. What kind of support would Benjamin’s ...

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