This is the fourth in a series of posts written by a mother of a son with autism, reflecting on her experience with her church community. Some of her observations serve as challenges to the way we do church, while others should be encouraging to the people who have made a difference in the lives of her and her family. The names in this story are fictional, but their experiences are not.
On the Joni and Friends Web Site I listened to an MP3 by Will and Arlyn Kantz and they really understand our needs. Our family can relate to almost every behavioral situation they spoke about, the challenges families face and even the fears of future challenges like puberty, programming, the workers, the sensory issues, congregational reactions, etc.
I would love to have a local church like the ones the Kantz’s help with inclusion programming.
Even one church like this in the area would be great.
I realize this particular couple (Will and Arlyn) not only have an autistic son but have great qualifications. They have done the work required and have put immense energy into the transformation. Their staged strategies for inclusion are thought through in a professional way.
Would a church body ever rise to this challenge on their own?
Most parents of children with disabilities do not have the qualifications, experience, energy, time or resources to instigate or even help implement something like this. Even as I write this, feelings of guilt resurface about not trying harder and doing more to figure something out for Michael. To be honest, though, we have so many things in his daily life that we have not figured out. It’s overwhelming to think of the energy and time required to figure out programming for Church as well.
There have always been people who have invested the energy and time to work out the programming for Nursery School, ABA and school. If a church really wants to work for inclusion or foster belonging for people with disabilities and their families a great first step would be listening to the Kantz’s MP3. Really, they have it right. Everyone in the congregation needs to be educated and not just immediate workers or teachers.
To the rest of the congregation this may look like an immense undertaking and adjustment, but think of how many more members would be able to join in fellowship and be ministered to!