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I recently received a copy of Autism and Your Church: Nurturing the Spiritual Growth of People with Autism Spectrum Disorder written by Barbara J. Newman from Friendship Ministries. Having read the original version of this book, I was thrilled to review this revised and updated version and was immediately impressed with the revisions.

As in the original book, I found the introduction stating “Everyone Welcome” at church really opens our eyes to the fact that this usually isn’t really the case. Families bringing kids with autism to church campuses all over the country are being turned away due to the church’s inability to understand and support some of the behaviors that autism presents. Autism and Your Church is a wonderful resource to help a church launch into the collective spirit of truly welcoming people with autism into their church community.

Featuring Helpful Tips 
By providing helpful tips on understanding children, youth and adults with ASD, this book focuses on how important it is to see each person as a unique individual created by God. Autism and Your Church offers advice on the administrative side of a program as well as specific suggestions on managing behavior challenges and finding strengths in individuals with ASD. It also offers personal glimpses into real scenarios to help you learn from them as well as see how autism presents differently for each individual. Having the reproducible samples in the last chapter that can easily be used and/or modified to meet your church’s needs is extremely handy. Sample social stories and visuals can help a teacher create visuals for each specific church setting and/or individual with ASD.

Chapters Include

God’s Handiwork – Seeing people through God’s eyes Autism Spectrum Disorder – Explains ASD in detail Ten Strategies for Including Individuals with ASD – Very specific including visuals Behavior Management – Including individuals with difficult behaviors An Action Plan – Specific steps are outlined Reproducible Resources – Great starting point. Can be adjusted to your needs. Recommended Resources

An Ongoing Ministry
Broken down into bite-sized pieces, this book offers a variety of purposes. Although it would be the perfect book for a Director of Special Needs Ministries, this book is also a great resource for any member who will interact directly or indirectly with an individual with autism. Having this knowledge up front will help make a family’s transition from home to church much easier for everyone involved. The book helps us understand that this is “not a one-time effort; rather an ongoing ministry.”

Featuring Tools for the Layperson
Finally, I like how the book stresses that its purpose is not to make us experts on autism, but to provide us the tools to be “experts” in how we can support and welcome individuals with autism within the church community and beyond. Although the book provides the detailed framework to create a special needs program, this idea may be overwhelming for some churches initially. Keep in mind that sometimes simply taking the steps to welcome one individual with autism can be the springboard to future ministry programs.