As a parent of a son with autism (Andrew is 21; he was diagnosed on June 5, 1997, his second birthday), I both sympathize and empathize with those parents who have special needs children who are searching for the seemingly ever-elusive ways to balance a church calling, receiving the needed spiritual sustenance on the Sabbath, and trying to ensure their child remains chill (as much as possible anyway) and allows others to worship in a way that they desire.
Over the years, trying to reconcile all these things has been a fine balancing act. When Andrew was younger, autism was less pervasive and few people understood its symptoms and manifestations. I remember one time when Andrew was 7 or 8. He was being particularly rambunctious Sunday, and as a family we were sitting in the foyer so as to not distract others with the noises he was making.
The foyer we were sitting in was situated just outside the bishop’s office of another ward that shared the building with us. We were sitting on the couch, and Andrew darted out of my hands and made a b-line for the chair that was directly across from us in the foyer. I stood up to get him at the exact same moment the bishop’s office door opened and the bishop came out. He was a little closer to the chair than I was, and he reached Andrew, who was beginning to mount the chair with intentions to jump on it, before I did. I can still remember the words that came out of that bishop’s mouth as I was just a few second behind him in reaching the chair and lifting Andrew from it: “Son, that is not how we show reverence in the church.” The words were relatively harmless, but the tone with which he mouthed this set me aback. I quickly picked Andrew up as I apologized to the bishop and tried to quickly explain Andrew’s condition. As soon as the words left my mouth, the bishop’s countenance changed. I felt bad for Andrew, sorry for that bishop (I knew he felt bad for the way he communicated his thoughts), and even had a little Thomas B. Marsh moment myself that quickly subsided.
Over time, I have been pleased by how the Church (organizationally) and the members (individually) have educated themselves on ways to help those with autism, and their families, worship on the Sabbath. Although the resources in this post are by no means exhaustive, I have been impressed by the wisdom and knowledge they contain in educating people on how to approach the subject of autism.
For example, the video above focuses on ways to help Primary and Youth teachers improve their communication with parents and build a better relationship with their special needs students. You can find the free printable on MeckMom.com and CknScratch.com.
Additional resources and viewpoints can be found here:
Autism and Primary: http://autismandprimary.blogspot.com/
By Common Consent: https://bycommonconsent.com/2013/07/25/ministering-on-the-spectrum/
Mormon Women Project: https://www.mormonwomen.com/interview/a-special-mother-for-special-needs/
Although Nancy McNabb lost a 22-month-old daughter to SIDS, her greatest challenge has been raising her autistic son Stewart. Nancy describes her tireless work with her 19-year-old son, her secrets to staying happily married with a special needs child, the role the gospel has played in her journey, and her work at the University of Illinois in autism education.
SPECIAL BONUS: Even more content is located here:
Have you had experiences with special needs individuals in your ward or stake? Have I missed any resources in this post? Please feel free to comment with your thoughts below.