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EDITOR | Seeking a full participation in parish life

The attitudes and actions of parishioners go a long way toward welcoming families with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder

Mass is peaceful. The Liturgy of the Word was inspiring, and now the Liturgy of the Eucharist is pulling us in — the prayer welcomes us to fully accept Jesus as our savior.

Then a screech. A child, upset or confused or anxious, lets out a frustrated cry. Or starts asking unusual questions of people praying behind him.

What is our reaction? Do we pray for the child? Offer words of encouragement to her and her family? Or do we shun him, chastise his parents for not properly disciplining the child: “When I was a kid, we sat quietly and followed the rules.”

For some parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, this scenario is common. We notice the stares and glares and hear the comments — as do our children. It fills us with anxiety and fear. Some weeks, it’s easy to feel rejected, rather than welcomed, by the Church.

We, too, want to fully and consciously participate in Mass. We do our best. Our childrens’ social behaviors and repetitive and restrictive interests are great joys that also present significant challenges for them, us, and our community.

The cover story this month shares how one family has worked to involve the parish community in their son’s faith journey, and vice-versa. For the Houstons, the challenge has become the blessing. Through this story, we should see a model for how we can all be welcoming at Mass — and in life.

Jesus welcomes all equally. We’re called to do the same.

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