Thursday, September 19, 2013

The church and autism

The other day, my friend Missy forwarded these links to me about the church's role in helping families dealing with autism, and I think it is right on. I have to admit, throughout all my own personal struggles in understanding and coping with my son's diagnosis, I never really considered that the church should have a role in helping families coping with autism, or other emotional, social, or physical disabilities for that matter.  It's more than a little embarrassing that it never crossed my mind, but now I am inspired to maybe even start a disabilities program or support group at my own church at some point.

There are some wonderful points made...I will touch briefly on the ones that resonated with me:

Myth: we know the cause and cure for autism.

Truth: - no one knows the cause or the cure. And, due to the wide ranging 'spectrum'-ness of this disorder, treatments that work wonders for some may not work at all for others.

Myth: children with autism are a result of poor parenting.

Truth: parenting style has nothing to do with a child's diagnosis. In these videos, I was appalled at some of the things parents said people would say to them, things like "why would you give blood with a child like that?" or "must be the sins of the parents..." As angering and frustrating as that is on it's face to have people think like that, it only shows me more how ignorant the church is of this disorder. There is so little known about how to talk to people with autism, how to teach them, how to support the families, and it is even more unfortunate because it is becoming an epidemic. There are families in your church that are dealing with this...as Christ's body, we need to respond.

One more part that hit home was something one of the child's parents said about worrying about their child's possible future without them. "What is he going to be like when he's 25, will he ever get married, living a typical life...What I try to remind myself of is that I have no control over the future, and that's something that I constantly have to pray about and take all those thoughts captive and put 'em before God because He's the one who already has the blueprint." I confess it is SO easy to worry about Jeremiah's future, and this was a good reminder to take those thoughts captive and give them to my Father, who already knows the plans He has for my son...and they are better than any I could imagine.

Another part that brought tears for me was when one mom talked about the loneliest thing being when she was home alone with her son with autism. She wants so desperately to be able to talk to him and know what he is thinking...and at times I let my frustration at Jeremiah's inability to express things spiral into my own angry and depressive state. I felt both blessing (that my son has verbal capabilities and is progressing toward social typical-ness) and deep empathy for this woman as I've been there, wanting so badly to connect with my son, and not knowing how. It is very lonely for that reason, but also because not many people can empathize with that feeling. So, you are on a a bit of a parenting island.

Anyway...here are the links. It is a DVD set from "Joni and friends" (Joni Erickson Tada)...and I think I might end up watching all related videos on that site now. Please watch them...if you have never encountered autism up close, it will give you more understanding. If you know someone with autism or a family who is coping with its ramifications...I believe the church can play a role in creating community and acceptance where there has previously been ignorance and misunderstanding.

Part 1

Part 2

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