Autism Watch: 2007

Let the children come to me…but not if you’re autistic

Posted on: May 20, 2008

Has St. Joseph’s catholic church in Bertha, Minn. read that part of the bible? “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them..” Anyone at St. Joseph’s familiar with this bible verse? Or the Catholic credo that you are supposed to come to mass? Oh, I get it — more mandates by humans, “Go to church, just not MY church.”

It’s a sad day in the autism community, or any community, when you can be kicked out of church for a disability. I thought that was illegal? Maybe I don’t know my ADA regulations well enough, or maybe the church doesn’t, but so far, they appear to be getting away with it.

A church is place people go to help grow their faith. Sure, we can read our bibles at home but we can’t minister to ourselves the way a priest/pastor can. This family, just like everyone else and maybe moreso, deserves the comfort and ministry of a church, yet they are being denied it because their son’s severe autism behaviors are just too much for the church to handle. One blog I read said that the boy, a 13 year old boy but still a child, has urinary incontinence. It also said that he ran out of church so quickly one day that he knocked an elderly person over. (Wow, maybe no children should be allowed in church then — I see neurotypical children barreling into people left and right every Sunday.) I also read somewhere that the boy flails his arms and legs, and this was deemed dangerous, and that he spits, though the family supposedly said that part isn’t true. In the end, I don’t know the real story — I don’t know what he does, and what he doesn’t do, but I can clearly see what the church didn’t do, and that’s help this family. Maybe they really did offer a different place in church for him to hear the sermon, maybe not, and maybe the place they offered was unsatisfactory. Who knows. But in the end, a church got a restraining order to keep a severely disabled 13 year old boy out. Does that not give everyone pause? If not, it should!

Discriminating is illegal. Sure, keeping other parishioners safe is definitely a job of the church but there has to be a middle ground here. I have so many thoughts on this, I can’t cover them all without rambling but I want to know why major autism groups aren’t behind this family. Where is the ACLU or a famous attorney when it comes to a disabled white boy? Where is the press, and why aren’t they up in arms? Why aren’t all of us?

I know, truly, that there is another side to this story. But I also know that even in the most accepting of churches, in the kindliest of congregations, even a ‘high functioning’ autistic child can not always be treated as he should. And these are children we’re talking about, children of families who are using their faith to get through a tribulation. Needy families. Disabled people. Shutting doors to them can’t be how churches are supposed to act. I don’t know what else to say, but I hope that this church and those who complained about the boy are ashamed of themselves.

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6 Responses to "Let the children come to me…but not if you’re autistic"

Discriminating is illegal? Really.

The story I have heard about this before I read your take was another family that cares for autistic children. They sympathized with the church because apparently they tried to work with the family and provide other options, but the family was completely uncooperative.

I don’t know if they were uncooperative or not — too much ‘he said, she said’ out there to know for sure, but the church has the burden here to suck it up moreso than they did, and find a way to make everyone happy. I’ve seen a couple of people who actually side with the church, but if the situation was turned and they were disallowed in some public place, I bet they’d be crying foul, too.

I agree with you to a point, but this thirteen-year-old was also 6’1″ and 250 lbs. That’s a true safety issue for anyone, anywhere.

The house of God should never turn anyone away.
Even if he were a 250lb man. I cann’t believe God would turn this kid out and nether should anyone who calls themselve a christian. A good man who happened to get knocked down by this boy would get up and help this boy walk better not banish him. If we are to call ourselves christ like we better start acting more like he would.

Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

cheers, Quattrocento.

We don’t know the whole story but…
Autistic child or not, there are lots of families who don’t give a hoot about others…just cause the boy was autistic doesn’t mean automatically he comes from a perfect family.
I once stayed at a Ronald McDonald house with a family who fit this picture perfectly…they were asked to leave after 2 days.

Our church has solved this issue by building a ministry called bridgebuilders for kids with special needs. They have their own classroom, but those who can are integrated in the regular childrens church as much as possible. A one on one aide stays with them. The ENTIRE class heads to the childrens chapel with the other kids in the beginning. Most can’t participate but they seem to enjoy the worship time and most of the time are able to stay for it.
We have a respite night once a month for parents.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this ministry and it made me extra grateful for it when I read this story.

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