At MCUSA Convention in Orlando this summer, I led a workshop on autism in the church youth group. With forty some youth sponsors and several youth in attendance, I knew this topic touched a nerve. Our congregations desire to learn how to better incorporate youth with ASD into their youth groups. Youth with autism often find it difficult or uncomfortable engaging in social settings. With youth group activities typically centered around social interactions, this presents a barrier to inclusion for many of our young people.
In preparation for the workshop, I met with youth, families, pastors, and youth group leaders and received many useful suggestions from those more experienced with this issue of inclusion. Perhaps the most valuable part of the workshop, however, came when I invited participants to share with the group from their own experiences. Participants asked one another questions and offered input. The discussion was very lively!
During the session, I provided an overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder and offered practical suggestions about how to include youth in church activities. While this was helpful, creating opportunities for the sponsors to share and learn from each other seemed to be the most valuable to the participants. Youth sponsors from across the denomination offered each other support and encouragement, finding a greater sense of what it means to be an inclusive community of faith.
Learning from one another is vital to nurturing inclusive congregations. This is why ADN focuses so heavily on networking and connecting people to each other. We make ADN staff and field associates available to help facilitate seminars and workshops at conferences, lead sessions for youth groups and at youth retreats, on a wide range of disability topics. Contact us or check out the ADN website for a
full list of workshop topics and presentations.