As a note about the structure of the survey, the first question was multiple choice, and the other two were open-ended questions (no possible choices suggested).
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Question 1: Do you think your church or place of worship is autism-friendly?
1 (Blue) = No (22%)
2 (Red) = Somewhat (32%)
3 (Green) = Yes (46%)
Comments: I was encouraged by the responses to this question. Almost half of the people who responded indicated that their church or place of worship was autism-friendly, with about another third saying it was somewhat autism-friendly. Of course, it shows we still have more work to do in this area, but that many churches are doing a good job in creating an inclusive worship environment.
Question 2: If yes, what do they do to make it welcoming to families of children with autism?
A = Tolerance, respect, and acceptance from the church community, including tolerance for children making sounds or needing to move around.
B = Church has a special needs ministry and/or classes specifically designed for individuals with disabilities.
C = Church provides a "buddy system" or aide to help individuals with autism participate in religious classes.
D = Church staff and volunteers have training about autism.
E = Church provides a quiet area for families to go if their children get overwhelmed, where they can still hear the sermon.
F = Church allows children/adults with autism to have accommodations, such as using headphones/iPads, moving around during the service, and lowering the lights and music volume.
G = A church staff member has a family member with autism.
H = Church provides a respite program for families.
I = Sunday school teachers use computers and/or video modeling to teach.
Comments: The above graph shows the number of people who suggested each item on this list. As an example, item "A" has the highest number of votes (35 people stated that their church does this). I think it is interesting that the number one item on the list is tolerance, respect, and acceptance from the church community. This is something we can work towards in our churches and communities, and it costs nothing to incorporate. I'd love for any of you to leave a comment with your thoughts on how we can make this happen.
Question 3: If no, what would you like them to do to make it more welcoming?
A = Church congregation to be more accepting, understanding, and aware of autism.
B = Provide a quiet area for families to go if their children get overwhelmed, where they can still hear the sermon.
C = Offer a special needs ministry or classes for all ages (adults and children).
D = Train church staff and volunteers about autism.
E = Provide a "buddy system" or aide to help individuals with autism participate in religious classes.
F = Offer a separate service on a different day with less crowds, no loud music, and no bright lights.
G = Have more inclusion in age-appropriate regular religious classes.
Comments: This question addresses things that families would like to see their churches do. Again, we see that an accepting attitude is number one on the list. This and the rest of the items on the list can be taken into consideration when planning church services and special needs ministries. Of course, some are easier to implement than others, but I hope this provides an idea of some things families might appreciate.