Was one of two panelists for a parent sharing on special needs organised by the Scripture Union today. The audience, about 50, comprised mainly Sunday School teachers from various churches. Meaningful questions were asked, including:
"How can Sunday Schools welcome children with autism?"
1. Establish open communication with the caregivers. Because it's often the case that the child cannot report to the parents, Sunday School teachers can keep the parents informed of what was covered during that day's lesson, so that the parent can support by reinforcing the lessons. In communicating with the parents, it is good to highlight the child's strength and what the child did well that day. These snippets are precious encouragement to often flagging parents.
2. Find an area to let the child serve in church. It can be as simple as stacking chairs. Being able to help makes the child feel useful, and proud of how he or she can contribute.
3. Do not focus merely on teacher-child relationship. For the church to become truly inclusive, we need to consider how we can help the peers understand and love the child. A good way is to set up a rotational buddy system for different classmates to guide and help the child. This way, peers get an opportunity to know the child at a deeper level.
4. Consider setting aside a quiet corner for the autistic child to calm down during a meltdown. The ideal setting is quiet and not too bright. If a separate room is not possible, a partitioned corner with a bean bag can be helpful.
5. Pray for love. Because even with the best guidelines or procedures, it's there's no love, we're just an empty gong. So pray for love, and then wisdom to help the child.