Autism Awareness Month

The National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD) calls on parishes and dioceses to use April, Autism Awareness Month, to welome those with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) into the life of the church.
The NCPD website www.ncpd.org has resources for ministry and for this observation of Autism Awareness Month, including Prayers of the Faithful and a bulletin announcement for parishes.
ASD remains the fastest growing significant disability in the U.S., with as many as one in every 110 children now identified with this disorder. Parishes are seeing this number reflected in those seeking religious education and sacramental preparation.
“The public statistics and predictions challenge us to ask how we are serving this large population in our parishes and dioceses,” said Dr. Nancy Thompson, NCPD director of programs and diocesan relations.
“NCPD’s office was created in 1982 to help dioceses implement the 1978 Pastoral Statement of U.S. bishops on people with disabilities and related teachings of the church,” she added. “Those teachings apply to people with ASD as well as all other disabling conditions.”
She quoted a parent on the need for the spiritual care of autisic children: “It’s hard enough for us as parents. We want our children to be accepted and to be able to receive the sacraments even if it takes a little longer. It’s well worth it.”
While the medical world makes technological advancements, it must not forget the power of love and affection in helping those with autism and their families, said Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski last year in a message for World Autism Awareness Day (April 2).
The archbishop is president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry
The stereotypes associated with those diagnosed with autism require “profound revision,” he said. Sometimes just the word – autism – “still generates fear today” even in cultures that have begun to accept many kinds of disabilities, the archbishop said in his message.
Social stigmas already isolate people who are ill or disabled, making them feel irrelevant or alien to the rest of the community, he said.
Society and the local church need to look at ways they can welcome autistic children and help these young people contribute to social, educational, catechetical and liturgical activities in a way that corresponds to each individual’s unique capabilities, he added.

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