- Provide small group settings so that people don’t feel overwhelmed – both within church services (e.g. at prayer gatherings or events) and mid-week, (home groups, socials etc).
- Give events as much structure as possible, (unstructured social time is especially stressful for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, (ASD))
- Let people know in advance (website/service sheets/notice-board) what to expect from services (including communion), and events. This helps to provide a sense of safety and minimises the stress of the unknown. Service leaders should also explain what is happening in a simple and friendly way.
- Fix any flashing lights or intermittent noises (sound systems etc) and keep speakers to a minimum level of noise. Have a room that is quiet, dimly lit and free from distractions or patterns. Try to provide paths (e.g. to communion), that don’t involve walking past musicians.
- Train church members in dealing with ASD – both those working with adults and children, (e.g. in Sunday school teams). Have places where children (and adults) who are struggling can go and be quiet and don’t condemn parents/carers if their children are acting out, (for example, shouting or ‘swimming – doing repetitive movements like rocking (“stimming”), to help them get a sense of where they are)
- Have simple take away points from each sermon (ideally with clear outlines and applications).
- Don’t assume that someone is being rude because they’re withdrawn, unable to make eye-contact or finding it difficult to socialise.
- Where possible, provide simple service sheets with all the necessary info on one piece of paper, (not lots of different books to hold/look up)
- Make sure the building is clearly signposted, including toilets, carparks, exits and coffee. Have maps as well as descriptions for those who find reading more difficult. Make sure welcomers are familiar with ASD and have someone available who can act as a point of contact for those who need help.
- Be clear and factual when preaching – if you’re using metaphors or sayings or humour, make sure you explain it! Use simple illustrations without too much movement or noise. Where possible, provide breaks from sensory input, (at Sunday school too).
For those with experience, what would you add?