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Special Needs

Autism is a developmental disability affecting communication and social interaction that affects one in every 150 children in the U.S. And families are looking to the church for support. Here are ways that you can help.

Sensory Issues of Autism Vary

Some children with autism don't like to be touched or to make eye contact. Others love to be cuddled and may seem rude by getting in your face. Both of these behaviors are part of this wide-spectrum disorder. When making new contact, watch and follow the child's lead. Ask parents how to best interact with their children; they'll appreciate your effort.

Making Sense of Autism

This video series includes study guides that can be taught as a half-day seminar or a four-week class. Hosted by author and disability advocate, Joni Eareckson Tada, it features advice from parents, pastors, experts, and teachers who are addressing the issues of autism as Christ's followers. To learn more, visit joniandfriendstv.org.

Support for Autism

Autism is a developmental disability affecting communication and social interaction that affects one in every 150 children in the U.S. And families are looking to the church for support. A good way to begin is by participating in National Autism Awareness Month. Since 1970 the Autism Society has designated April as a special opportunity to educate the public about autism issues. Whether sponsoring a day at the zoo or hosting a community health fair, churches are finding ways to participate in National Autism Awareness Month. Here's what you can do.

• Learn about autism. Log onto "Learn the Signs. Act Early" (cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/index.html) for informational materials on developmental milestones for parents, healthcare providers, and caregivers.

• Teach a small group study on autism. Use the study guides from the DVD series Making Sense of Autism (joniandfriendstv.org). This study takes you into the lives of families affected by autism to witness their joys and frustrations.

• Host an event. Plan a health fair at your church or an event such as "Bounce for Autism" ( bounceforautism.org) that combines family fun with raising awareness and support for autism.

• Show your colors. Wear an autism awareness puzzle bracelet to show your support. To purchase autism awareness items, visit Autism-Society.org/store.

• Pray for children with autism. Send your church prayer team regular requests from families who have an autistic child, and always share answers to prayer.

• Spread awareness. The Autism Society has free downloadable posters to help your church learn about autism. "Growing Up Together" is a popular pamphlet that teaches typical kids how much fun they can have with their friends on the autism spectrum. Visit autism-society.org/shop_downloads for these free materials.

National Autism Awareness Month may not sound like a church outreach, but it can be. As Christians, we can offer the love of Jesus and the warmth of a loving and welcoming church community to all families.

Pat Verbal is co-author of Special Needs-Special Ministry (Group) and manager of curriculum development at the Christian Institute on Disability (joniandfriends.org).






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