Most of us probably know someone who is autistic. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports a rise in the incidence of autism. As of 2014, one in sixty-eight children are diagnosed in the United States.
What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder affects a person’s ability to communicate. Though the exact cause is unknown, scientists indicate that both genetics and environment play a role. The developmental disability may manifest in delayed learning of language, difficulty reasoning, and inability to interact appropriately with others. Behavioral difficulties, sensory sensitivity, and poor motor skills are often symptoms. Little or no eye contact and lack of imaginative play in children may be noted.
Treatment modalities depend on the individual’s needs and abilities. They may include speech therapy, occupational therapy, one-on-one or small group intervention, developmental programs, and parent-delivered interventions. Nutritional components may be incorporated. Applied Behavior Analysis has been used by therapists for several decades to teach social and academic skills, communication, self-care, work skills, and community life skills.
Transition Plans for Adults:
Since entitlement to public education ends at age twenty-one, transition planning is required to be placed in effect at age sixteen according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Vocational training, employment, living arrangements, and community activities are usually addressed by looking at the person’s interests and abilities as well as their needs.
Given the vast array of issues these families face, they are usually exhausted. They may receive little or no help from others and are often made to feel less than welcome in the community. The financial burden can be enormous. Researchers estimate as much as 2.4 million dollars in the cost of caring for an autistic individual during their lifetime. Education, housing, transportation, insurance and non-covered expenses, therapeutic services, and equipment are among the costs. These families need a safe haven.
Church and Community:
What about church? Making preparations to attend church can seem an insurmountable ordeal. How can we help? Most importantly, we can love them. Ask them what can be done to make them more comfortable. Respect their wishes. If they do not like to be touched, don’t attempt to shake their hand or hug them. If they are unable to sit still, don’t stare. If they are particularly sensitive to loud noises, recommend seating that is away from speakers or microphones. Parents know their children–ask the parents what you can do to make them more comfortable.
“But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:14 / KJV)
“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3 / NIV)
As members of the Body of Christ, what solutions can we offer to make life easier for these families?
Online Resources for Autism: