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.
Our hope is that all families affected by autism may be welcomed in their house of worship, and able to become active participants in their faith community. We have put together a list of resources that families and faith leaders may find helpful.
Resources for Parents and Families
Going to Church: A Guide for Children with Autism
This Power Point presentation is designed to help prepare children with autism for trips to church.
Going to Synagogue: A Guide for Children with Autism
This Power Point presentation is designed to help prepare children with autism for trips to synagogue.
Pathways to Worship: Accessible Congregation Building for Strong Communities of Faith
Pathways to Worship assists congregations of all faith traditions to become faith communities where worshipers of all abilities can participate. Congregations using our print materials, videos, Inclusion Awareness Day event and Open Hearts Awards cash grants have developed a network of accessible congregations.
Religion and Autism: Autism Society
Two articles originally published in the Autism Society's magazine, the Autism Advocate, on the topic of autism and religion. The articles provided here relate specifically to the Christian and Jewish faiths, but many of the tips can and should be applied to all religions.
Religion: Going to a Place of Worship
The National Autistic Society
Religion is an important part of many people's lives. Parents often ask for strategies to use when they take their child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to a place of worship. These strategies are from the UK National Autistic Society.
Tour of the Mass: Diocese of Bridgeport
A video tour of the mass experience broken down into 26 clips. The Diocese has also created Sacraments 123, an iPad app to teach the Holy Sacraments. This App is the first of a series of fun apps geared for children, parents, teachers and those with special needs.
Inclusion in Faith Communities: Some Tips for Parents to Get Started
by Bill Gaventa, M.Div., and Mary Beth Walsh, Ph.D. (PDF)
The Beatitude of the Exceptional Child
from Andre Masse, CSE, National Apostolate for Inclusion Ministry Quarterly, 1968 (PDF)
How to Create A Special Needs Religious Service (video)
The Special Needs Committee at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York has created disability-friendly worship services called "Shireinu" (Our Songs"). This five-part video series is their valuable educational resource to help inspire other houses of worship or religious organizations to create their own services using this framework as a guide.
Resources for Religious Leaders
Autism and Faith: A Journey into Community
A collaborative product of The Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Department of Pediatrics and The New Jersey Center for Outreach and Services for the Autism Community (COSAC). It was generously funded by a grant from The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation.
This resource for including individuals with autism in faith communities is written so that others will not feel alone. Parents and families of individuals with autism, congregations struggling to become better at being inclusive, and individuals with autism themselves all need to know that they are not alone.
Autism and Your Church: Nurturing the Spiritual Growth of People with Autism Spectrum Disorder
by Barbara J. Newman
Autism and Your Church offers practical ways to welcome and include individuals with ASD into the full life of your congregation. This resource will enable church leaders to:
- appreciate those with ASD as persons created in God's image.
- learn about six common areas of difference in individuals with ASD.
- discover ten strategies for including people with ASD in the life of your church.
- develop an action plan for ongoing ministry with children and adults who have ASD.
Jewish Community Guide to Inclusion of People with Disabilities
by Shelly Christensen, MA, Program Manager of the Minneapolis Jewish Community Inclusion Program for People with Disabilities, a cutting-edge, award-winning program
An essential resource for Jewish organizations seeking to provide a supportive and inclusive environment for people with disabilities.
Available for $45.
Welcoming those with Autism and Asperger Syndrome in our Churches and Communities
Guidelines by Ann Memmott
The Diocese of Oxford, United Kingdom
Autism Speaks Autism Awareness Month Pew Cards
For Catholic masses.
Ten Commandments for Welcoming Persons with Disabilities to Church
From Archdiocese of Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications (PDF)
Quick Low Cost Things to Make a Difference for People with an ASD
and Everyone in your Congregation
excerpted from Welcoming those with Autism and Asperger Syndrome, Diocese of Oxford (PDF)
For a listing of books, manuals and websites that focus on autism and faith communities visit our Resource Library.
Visit our Resource Guide to find special needs religious services and/or religious education classes in your area. We welcome new submissions to continually build the Resource Guide. If you know of additional special needs services or religious education classes please feel free to submit them here.
We would like to hear from you! Share your story about autism in your religious community with us. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.