I was given the opportunity 2 weeks ago to write a devotional for autism awareness month on DisciplesNet Church which is an online church community for those who are unable to go to church. Most special needs families have a difficult time going to church and some do not even feel welcomed in church. Plus all the sensory difficulties that can happen with smells, noises, numerous church members, distracting decorations, and different surroundings is very overwhelming for children with autism. DisciplesNet Church is another resource special needs families can use to stay connect at home on their faith journey. They can go to DisciplesNet Church anytime of the day and it will always be their for additional support.

 

The Silent Needs, by Kelli Higgins

For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 

The Silent Needs

April is fast approaching. The signs of spring are showing—flowers are blooming, trees are blossoming, the deep green of grass is returning, and the sun is warming the weather around us. We have been experiencing the journey of Lent; waiting and reflecting. April also brings a different type of awareness, calling for our minds to be opening and understanding. Many families around the world are being affected. They are looking for acceptance, love, and support from their faith community.  April is also Autism Awareness Month.

I have two precious little girls with autism: my two-year old, Melanie, and my five-year old, Michaela. I’m not going to lie and say it has not been a difficult journey with the girls. Deep down I knew something was not right in their early childhood, but hearing the words “your child has autism” felt like someone hit me in the stomach and I couldn’t breathe. Quickly after getting the diagnosis the most overwhelming part begins. First you try to understand “what is autism?” Next, you are overwhelmed in trying to determine which therapies are needed. Finally, having to explain the diagnosis to the family over and over again, forcing you to relive the experience several times. The only way I was able to stay centered and not completely crumble was talking to God — to know I was not alone.

Many special needs families have a hard time attending church for numerous reasons. Most have to determine if it’s even worth the effort. I can’t describe the challenges of preparing a child with autism in the morning each day. The simple task of getting clothes on or brushing their hair can take forever. If a special needs family does manage to arrive at church, once inside the building the risk of their child having a meltdown increases exponentially. Simple things we take for granted such as décor, sounds, smells, and a crowd can dramatically be overwhelming for a child with autism. Special needs families are in desperate need for understanding, acceptance, and support for their personal faith journey. If they don’t feel welcome, they will feel unable – or unwelcome – to go to church.

With Autism Awareness Month quickly approaching, I would like to encourage you to do some of these simple things to show your support for families with children that have special needs:

  • wear blue on Monday, April 2nd forWorld Autism Awareness Day;
  • change your exterior lights to bluelight bulbs. [Link here to Light it up Blue].   Home Depot currently sells bluelight bulbs and will donate $1 to Autism Speaks (one of the largest autism support organizations in the USA) for each bulb sold Look for the light bulb with the Autism Speaks logo (blue puzzle piece) on the package;
  • change your social media profile picture blue or useblue colors in your personal blog or web site;
  • say a special prayer for special needs families looking for support and acceptance in their faith journey.

Prayer:  Gracious God, we pray today for all of your children, that each will know that they are your valued and precious child. Please be with those who live with autism and similar challenges, including those who lovingly nurture these of your children as they grow. For these families, dear God, we pray for an extra measure of your strength, wisdom, and grace. 

We pray for loving communities where persons with special needs can be accepted for who they are, supported, and give to as well as receive from others. We pray also that you would be with those scientists who seek to understand this condition, that you guide their hearts and minds in their work.  Thank you, loving God, that your Spirit of comfort is beside each of us each step of the way, in trouble and in triumph.  We pray these things in the name of your son Jesus Christ.  Amen

-Kelli Higgins is a member of Allisonville Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Indianapolis, Indiana

-prayer by Deb Phelps, DisciplesNet Church