World Autism Awareness Day

Today is World Autism Awareness day and well worth marking.

I’ve known a couple of people receive a diagnosis of being on the autistism spectrum in the last year or so, each in their forties and each with a whole new growing awareness of who they are.

I know more about Asperger syndrome than other points on the spectrum – but what I’ve learned its that there are just as many differences between people who have such a diagnosis as there are those who don’t.

So, just to point to two resources which I’ve found helpful in the last year. The first is a description of those who don’t have Asperger’s by someone who does. The author of this piece calls those of us who don’t have Asperger’s neurotypicals and goes on to describe the condition using the same kind of language that people use when trying to pin down people who do live with asperger’s syndrome. You can find it here: Understanding Neurotypicality

The second is a guide for churches wanting to make a more inclusive welcome to those who live with Autism and Asperger syndrome. Its a good read for any member of the clergy and particularly anyone working on welcome and inclusion issues in congregations. Well worth a browse for sidespeople, welcomers, stewards etc. You can find that one here: Welcoming those with Autusm and Asperger Synodrome (pdf)

Go on – have a look, it even has cartoons by Dave Walker and comes from the Diocese of Oxford.

One of the suggestions is that churches should offer the chance to people to have a look round a church building before coming as that makes going to church for the first time easier.

I’m very happy to make that offer. To everyone.

There’s also a written description of what its like to come to St Mary’s on the website. I’d be very happy to receive constructive suggestions as to how that could be improved.


  1. agatha says

    “I’ve learned its that there are just as many differences between people who have such a diagnosis as there are those who don’t.”

    Well said, from the mother of a son with Asperger’s who gets tired of hearing he will do this, he won’t be that. In fact he doesn’t fit most of the things in the “welcoming” pamphlet.

  2. Rosemary Hannah says

    IN theory I don’t have AS – sometimes I wonder, especially as I am a logical introvert, and thus have many features in common with people with AS. But – a map? That is a ground plan of the building, showing where the loos are, where the kitchen is, and all that kind of thing. I would have liked that when I first came. It would just have made things simpler.

  3. Neil Oliver says

    Hi Kelvin, as a church goer since childhood and an adult non-diagnosed High Functioning ASD I’m glad you’ve addressed this subject. It’s not one I’ve seen often brought up, oin fact I can’t remember a single occasion.

    The welcoming PDF was fascinating and a good starter point. I have some comments on your description of a St Mary’s service from an ASD point of view if I may? I realise that this needs to be a general document but making it more accesable to ASD people will make it more accesaable in general.

    In the document you introduce many terms without defining them and use a lot of technical church language, choir, clergy, thurible. Is it possible to turn these into links to a glossary or use more “non0church” language? The paragraph starting “On most Sunday mornings..” is really difficult to understand as you introduce the phrase “Young Church” and then not til afterwards say it’s the optional children’s group, saying this the other way round is clearer to an ASD person. Your use of the phrase “in parallel” to mean (I think) “at the same time” is also confusing. Many ASD are maths geeks and use that language quite specifically in it’s geometrical meaning.

    One further comment, you note that at the end it’s a good chance to meet people and whilst this is true, many ASD people are not in the habit of going up to strangers and introducing themselves. So far over my visits to St Mary’s only Cedric and Frannie have made any attempt to approach me and say hello and I wouldn’t dream of interupting people in their socialising after service. I simply couldn’t do it.

    Apologiies of this comes accros as over-critical, but as one of the few to raise this subject I feel you deserve some honest and I hope constructive feedback

    • Thanks Neil – that’s all really helpful.

      I’ll maybe have a go at redrafting some of it in due course. Its been on the website for a while, so it is about time it was looked at again.

  4. Neil Oliver says

    Glad to contribute, sorry for the poor spelling!

  5. agatha says

    Rosemary & Neil dive in to prove your (& my) point. My son is most definitely not an introvert and couldn’t count past 10 till he was well up primary school, maths geek he certainly isn’t.

  6. Neil Oliver says

    People are individuals and this is a spectrum disorder, these are both a given in any discussion on the topic. I apologise if I geneneralised my experience and background.

  7. fr dougal says

    This is excellent! It just goes to show that my dislike of OHP’s Hallelujah shouting and apallingly ill organised hymn fests with banally worded choruses was nowt to do with a conservative theology but a lot to do with my Aspergers. I’m not anti-evangelical – but their worship style really does make me feel ill!

  8. Rosemary Hannah says

    For what it is worth Neil, the introverts in the congregation are probably struggling with socialising in a sea of faces and chattering groups, too.

  9. Rosemary Hannah says

    You do not need to apologise, Neil – everybody is always learning about other people and none of us know everything. We all need to listen and to speak.

  10. Amelia Hagen says

    Thank you for the resources. Since my very best friend is AS I’m always looking for ways to help.

  11. Marion Chatterley says

    Really helpful resources – thanks Kelvin. The neurotypicals piece was well worth reading.

  12. Andrew Heatlie says

    We need to be accepting and sensitive to others, and insights like these (as in the Oxford Diocese initiative) are invaluable. Can’t agree wholeheartedly with Marion though… Ryan’s message seemed to say more about his own hurt than present a rich balanced picture of humanity in all its variety; still worth reading, but highly angled, neither accurate nor recognising the multi-spectra we all feature on somewhere quite irrespective of Autism/Asperger’s. Ultimately each person needs to be valued as his/her own individual self, and infinitely precious.

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