Friday, July 11, 2008

Autistic Children in Church

I just came across this article regarding a family with an autistic son who have been kicked out of their church. To summarize, the boy, a very large 13 year old, has severe autism and, according to the church is considered a distraction and his behavior has been classified as "harassment." The church has filed a restraining order against the family, and the court upheld it upon appeal.

I understand that there are two sides to every story. Having worked with autistic children myself, I know that they can sometimes be quite out of control or display behavior that would be quite disruptive in a public worship setting. Having worked with families of autistic children, I know just how important it is to continue with things that are important and meaningful, and how life cannot completely stop when you have a child with autism. I understand the church wants to create an environment that is safe to all the people there and doesn't want to be liable for any injuries an out of control autistic child may accidentally inflict.

Stories like this one make me very appreciative of the church I attend and work for here. We are very accepting of people with disabilities or problems. We also have a ministry set up to assist people with severe disabilities and their families. Our ministry has many volunteers who work one on one with kids (and some adults) while their families are allowed to worship.

Now, clearly I don't know the whole story behind the article... but it does make me sad to see headlines like this one in the news. There are alternatives, for both sides, and it doesn't have to come to legal action from a church against their own parishioners.