The Autism Spectrum


The Autism Spectrum

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. It results from neurological differences that affect development in social interaction and communication.

Create ways for people on the autism spectrum to share their unique gifts and talents  

People with autism represent a wide diversity of ability, from individuals with intellectual disability and no speech, to highly verbal individuals with exceptional abilities in specific areas and challenges in others (informally described as having Asperger syndrome), and every combination in between. The common ground across the autism spectrum is the presence of limitations in communication and forming relationships. 

People on the autism spectrum often take comfort in repetitive behaviors and restricted interests because, by definition, they find communication and social interaction challenging.

Others may be confused when encountering these unusual behaviors, and that confusion can lead to rejection. Sunday school teachers, peers, and other adults have a vital role to play when it comes to accepting and including people on the autism spectrum in the community of faith.

Douglas Wood (left) and his father lead an outdoor worship service at Broadway Church of the Brethren in Virginia. Douglas, who has autism, is a  photographer for the church.


Promote social inclusion of children with autism

  • Teach rather than lecture or punish, if undesirable behavior arises
  • Share information about the disability with peers       
  • Train a peer buddy to model appropriate responses
  • Create ways for people with autism spectrum differences to share their unique gifts and talents  


Autism resources for faith communities

ADN's resources on autism: explore the links on this page.

Autism and Your Church: Nurturing the Spiritual Growth of People with Autism Spectrum Disorder, by Barbara J. Newman, revised edition (Faith Alive Christian Resources), is an excellent resource offering dozens of practical ways to welcome and include individuals with autism spectrum disorders into the full life of a congregation.
Autism and Faith: A Journey into Community​. 2008. A 52-page resource from the Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities is available online​ in English or Spanish to download as a pdf.

Four training videos are available from CLC Network, presented by Barbara J. Newman. Order from CLC Network​.

  •  ​Autism: A Christian Response
  • Behavior Management Playing Field
  • Inclusion Tool Box: 52 Practical Ideas to Include Individuals with Disabilities. A version of this presentation is also available on YouTube.
  • Make Heaven a Noisier Place: Including Children with Disabilities

 Learn more

    • Resources on understanding and supporting children and adults with autism
    • Resources on disabilities that commonly accompany aging, including hearing loss, vision and mobility limitations, dementia, and more.
    • Resources on the range of conditions resulting from brain injury to an unborn child when the mother consumes alcohol.
    • Inclusion of the Deaf and others with profound hearing loss.
    • Tips and stories on including people with mild to moderate hearing loss.
    • Resources to raise awareness of hidden disabilities. Examples of hidden disabilities include chronic pain or diseases, mental illnesses, and many more
    • Resources on including people with intellectual disabilities.
    • Welcoming people who use wheelchairs or walkers, or who get around with difficulty.
    • Understanding low vision and blindness.

 Related topics

 Opening Doors