New Baylor effort aims to help churches better welcome autistic individuals
The conversation around autism has become more positive in recent years, thanks in part to efforts like Autism Acceptance Month. Sadly, churches have often struggled with how to welcome autistic individuals (and their families).
A new Baylor effort aims to help change that. Baylor’s School of Education launched its Disability, Faith, & Flourishing Initiative to promote the flourishing of people with disabilities, as well as their families and faith communities. As part of that work, Dr. Erik Carter and his colleagues will offer training for ministry leaders and practical resources for churches.
“We are eager to collaborate with churches across the country to learn together what it looks like to do this work well and faithfully,” says Carter, the Luther Sweet Endowed Chair in Disabilities and executive director of the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities. “The Scriptures are clear that we are to be lavish with our invitations and our love. Indeed, our faith communities are incomplete without people with disabilities and their families.”
Carter recommends churches take several necessary steps toward creating a more inclusive environment for autistic individuals. That begins with recognizing that there are people with disabilities in the community, and identifying any barriers that might keep them from participating in worship services and fellowship events. Churches can ask people about the support and opportunities that will enable their full participation — adapted activities, sensory supports, buddy systems, etc. (Find more tips from Carter here.)
“Autistic people are indispensable members of the Body,” Carter says. “Sometimes, where or how we gather can inadvertently exclude people. We should instead adopt attitudes and actions that lead to greater inclusion and belonging.”
Sic ’em, Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities!
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* New Robbins Clinic adds to Baylor’s efforts to serve those with autism (and their families) (April 2023)
* What’s the connection between autism and epilepsy? This Baylor prof is digging in. (March 2020)
* Baylor prof’s device offers benefits of horse riding to kids with autism (Oct. 2020)