Ten Ways Churches Can Help Autistic People
Each autistic person is different, but here are ten general pointers that will assist many autistic people…
Knowing what to expect
- Knowing what to expect is really helpful for autistic people. Information on the church website, including photos or a video, can be particularly helpful for any autistic person to know what to expect when coming to your church
- An order of service, a visual timetable, or a clear explanation at the beginning of a service or meeting can help an autistic person to know what is going to happen and to be able to take part.
Sensory processing support
- Sensory overload can be distressing for autistic people. If bright or flashing lighting is going to be used, please ensure clear warning is given
- Loud noises can also cause sensory overload. If amplification is loud or noises are sudden this can cause difficulties. Those involved in worship and audio visuals should be made aware of this
- If possible, have an area identified as a space for ‘time out’ in the event that autistic people need to retreat for a while if they experience sensory overload
- Many autistic people dislike being touched. Handshaking, or hugging, as part of the welcome to church or as part of sharing the peace, can cause great discomfort. Make sure people are given the space they require
- If an autistic person experiences sensory overload, this may result in a ‘meltdown’ or ‘shutdown’. In children, this is often interpreted as a temper tantrum. It is important for everyone to realise that this something that is happening to the individual and is out of their control. It is helpful not to judge, but to give the opportunity of somewhere quiet to cool down
- Social situations can be exhausting for autistic people. Take time somewhere quiet to be able to sit and get to know each other, and to find out what gifts and talents the autistic person may like to share with others too.
Nominating a Roofbreaker champion
- Have a ‘Roofbreaker’ (disability champion) at your church. This gives a clear point of contact for anyone to be able to mention any challenges they may be experiencing relating to autism, or any disability. It also encourages everyone at the church to be more disability-aware
- Churches with a Roofbreaker will receive free resources and have access to free training from Through the Roof. Follow this up to ensure autistic people, and anyone experiencing disability, can feel truly welcomed and included in your church.
For more information, or to register as a Roofbreaker, follow this link: https://throughtheroof.org/forchurches/roofbreakers/