Autistic Adaptation in Parishes with Terry Mattingly

There are still a lot of things parishes can do to help autistic people in Church. Terry Mattingly is is constantly looking at the interaction between religion and other news, and how the media reports on religion. He is a top expert on those two topics. I worked with him before on reporting about autism and religion (article, longer article, podcast). This week, we spoke on Monday & he posted an article on how congregations can help autistic individuals. This should apply across theological divisions (so Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Hindus, etc.)

Unsplash image (same as Religion Unplugged used)

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the article:

Many modern churches may be weak when it comes to architecture and sacred art, but they almost always have concert-level lighting, sound and multimedia technology.

But in a few sanctuaries linked to ancient traditions, worship leaders are trying something different. In some Eucharistic services, they are offering worshippers with autism an atmosphere that is more calm and less intense.

“If you look at many church services from the point of view of highly sensitive people — especially autistic children — there is too much noise, too many lights,” said Father Matthew Schneider, known to online Catholics as @AutisticPriest. “We can turn down the lights. We can turn down the volume. We can do a few things to accept these families and let them feel more comfortable.”

For neurodivergent people, it actually helps that ancient rites are built on repeated gestures, prayers and music that become familiar. Schneider experienced this phenomenon in seminary but grasped its importance when he was diagnosed as autistic several years after his ordination.

“If you do something over and over, then I know what’s coming. I have time to take that in. I know what is happening and why,” said Schneider, who currently teaches theology at Belmont Abbey College near Charlotte, North Carolina.

If you are interested, go read the rest at Religion Unplugged.

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