Hi I'm Alfie, I'm 21 and I'm from Yardley Baptist Church. Erm, I've got Asperger's Syndrome which is a type of Autism, which is a condition which affects social communication and sensory processing.
Erm, It affects everyone differently, so while some things might be difficult for me to deal with but other things might be helpful, erm, there’s no guarantee that that’s going to be the same for someone else with Autism. So if there's someone in your congregation with autism, then the best thing I suggest, is going and asking them what might be helpful for them.
For me, it means that I notice small details a lot, erm, and need things to be quite ordered and stay in that order and not change and If things do change with no warning then that can lead me to getting quite stressed.
I can also take things very literally at times and sometimes not get sarcasm. So for instance when the person whose leading the service says "take a seat", my first instinct is "where to?" erm because that sounds to me like they’re telling me to pick my seat up and take it somewhere erm, and growing up in church I’ve obviously learnt that that is not the case but that is still where my brain goes to first.
Erm, On the sensory side of things, loud noise and busyness generally don’t bother me that much, but if I'm particularly tired one day then they might bother me a bit more. Similarly bright lights don’t tend to bother me, but I know there are other autistic people who are particularly light sensitive and who that might be an issue for.
For me the biggest things that I'm hypersensitive to, so I erm, feel more keenly than most people is touch. So there are certain textures, certain fabrics which I just can't touch, erm without them going through me, with getting really stressed about it, and getting goosebumps on my arms. For in church the biggest way this affects me is the plastic cups that we use for water and a lot of other churches use. I can't touch those at all erm, and so if I’m getting water during a service then I’ll have to use a coffee cup or a mug, erm, which is fine but just needs people on coffee to be aware of so they’re not like "ah, no, you cant use that cup for that."
Erm, But as I said earlier, autism affects everyone differently so for people who might be more light sensitive or sound sensitive they might need a smaller, quieter space away from everyone else either at the back or the side of the room erm, where they can kind of just retreat to and have a bit of time out erm, to calm down and relax a bit more. Erm, They also might need to put on ear defenders during worship. Erm, If you’re leading worship and someone puts on ear defenders, please don't take it as them saying you’re playing badly, it’s almost certainly not that! Erm, But they just need it , it’s a bit too loud and they need to be a bit quieter erm, so they can calm down.