Workshop number 3

Dearest readers,

Today I did my second 'churches and autism' workshop, the third that I have ran since August and when I embarked on various autism projects. This workshop was almost a merger of some content from the first and second workshops I have done - combining the best of the church and theological based material and other parts I added into the second workshop for foster carers including a simple explanation of SPELL and a visual text demonstration suggested by now of my Autism Studies colleagues when she attended the first workshop. There has currently been little I've found on SPELL in churches. It was really good to have the theological basing back in the presentation, as I did feel my heart strings being tugged at when I removed them for the second workshop (as it would not have been appropriate in that instance to have these references).

The discussion was lively and propelled by various previous experiences of autism in families, friends and shared contacts in the group. I find it so enlightening to my own learning to listen to others stories, experiences and journeys as this I feel gives me a wider framework of understanding and also increases ownership of the session. After all, it is not just me lecturing people! I have found that some of the points brought up I then want to go and research more and find out myself what there is out there for that particular topic.

What I find fascinating is the fact that everywhere I go, different questions and key points get raised. I guess this is in part due to the varied (heterogeneous) nature of autism. but it never ceases to amaze me how each individual I have met has such a different life path and journey. Some of the key discussion points this time revolved around how we welcome people and new people into church, various questions about causes and genetics, questions around understanding ways that people may perceive the world and the role of routine and assumptions in church life. It is great that we can use these questions of accessibility to not only potentially improve a faith and church experience for one group of people, but potentially seeing autism friendly practice as beneficial for everyone. Other questions about how to approach someone about a change that is not set in stone and approaching someone to greet them were also discussed, as two topics highly relevant to the social life of the church and to autism.

My minister and I will be writing a short article for the church we ran the workshop for, so it can go in their magazine. I think this will be a good opportunity for us to put our project into print and to drum up more interest in this, as so far the overriding comment that I have had from every workshop is 'everyone should sit through this'. Clearly the more people we can reach, the better and I guess we are not just trying to reach those who have got personal experience or know someone. We would like to reach and discuss even with people who maybe know facts but need to know the experiential side of autism: what it can feel like, how life may be, how someone may perceive the world. Obviously we all perceive the world in individual ways, which is right and fair, so we cannot expect everyone to fit a mould. Because as humans in general we just don't! However we can give each other tools to help all be able to understand motivations and desires better.

We are now busy planning for our 'autism friendly' service in April! Updates to follow.


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