Prayer for Autism Awareness Month
Bless today in special ways all the children, adults and families
who see through the window of autism.
May your Spirit burn bright in them and all who celebrate and honor the richness of our diversity during
this Autism Awareness month of April.
Grant us, O Lord, the wisdom
to see your image reflected in
all of our differences,
and to recognize the unique gifts
we each have to offer.
May the doors of ministry in our Church
continue to open wide in welcome to all
Of God’s family.
We ask this in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.
National Catholic Partnership on Disability
By MARY KAYE FALCONY
A PLACE FOR ALL
In recent weeks, I was homebound while recovering from surgery. Given the fact that there were many things I was unable to do, I often found myself looking for something good to watch on TV. One afternoon I came across the series “Parenthood.” Although I did not watch it during its six-season run, I was quickly drawn to the Braverman family.
Two members of this family, Max (a child who grows into adolescence before our eyes) and Hank (who eventually marries into the family and is an accomplished photographer), are on the autism spectrum. Watching these two individuals live their lives gave viewers a closer look at how an individual with autism may navigate some of the challenges they face, and how they discover and develop their own gifts, which are shared with others.
The one thing I appreciated most was the attention given to dynamics present within the various relationships of Max and Hank. The creators of this series made it very clear that relationships evolved and formed because there was a longing on the part of all to know the other and understand their needs.
As we celebrate Autism Awareness month, it is important for us to recognize as a church community that awareness is the door we must walk through if we hope to understand the needs of others. As of 2020, the CDC has reported that approximately One in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism. This being the case, be assured there are children and adults in our parish communities that we will encounter who live this reality, and may experience and journey through life in a different way than we do.
Since parishes are places of hospitality, belonging and welcome, it benefits the entire community when information is shared that provides a deeper understanding. Often, the understanding now possessed may allow for greater ease of encounter and opportunities for relationships to be formed and to grow.
In his book “Teaching Students with Autism in a Catholic Setting,” Dr. Lawrence R. Sutton, Ph.D., reminds us that persons on the autism spectrum are all different; they are individuals. This is where we begin – just as we do with all those we encounter. We reach out and discover who they are and the beauty they possess.
If you would like to learn more about the autism spectrum, Dr. Sutton has also published a book entitled “How to Welcome, Include and Catechize Children with Autism and Other Special Needs.” Dr. Sutton is an ordained deacon and a psychologist specializing in autism. He is nationally recognized for developing a unique religious program for children with autism and other special needs.
The National Catholic Partnership on Disability is also a good source of information. Visit https://ncpd.org/disability-ministry/autism-spectrum-disorder.