“Autism, Church and Healthcare: Needs, Opportunities and Challenges – A Workshop”

There is a growing awareness that autism is a common condition, and that many persons with autism are involved in churches and other communities of faith. For them, or for those around them, the experience of autism cannot be separated from their faith commitments or from their participation in faith communities. Other members of these communities, however, can struggle to understand the distinctive needs of those with autism, often because their thinking about the condition is based on outdated or stereotypical descriptions. Those providing support from within the healthcare communities, meanwhile, may have little awareness of the significance of faith commitments to how autism is experienced and processed by Christians, often assuming that faith commitments can be compartmentalized from other areas of life.

The Centre for the Study of Autism and Christian Community (University of Aberdeen), is partnering with Alma Autism—an organization that works with families and churches to support and raise awareness of the spiritual needs of people with autism—to run a workshop on autism, healthcare and the church. The workshop is intended to open conversation about the challenges faced by those with autism and their families as they experience the world of the church, on one hand, and the world of healthcare and support, on the other. The workshop will consider the role that the church can play in the lives of those with autism, while dealing frankly with the challenges that often accompany this. It will also facilitate reflection on the barriers to greater integration between the “worlds” of scientific research into autism and healthcare and of faith community.

The workshop is open to all who are invested in this issue. We particularly welcome involvement from pastors and from those involved in healthcare provision and advocacy support for those with autism, including, of course, those who are themselves autistic. There is no charge for attending the workshop, but we would be grateful if anyone planning to attend would email d.robbins.18@abdn.ac.uk, so that we can estimate numbers.

Date and Time: 2nd March, 2019. 10:30–3:30pm.

Venue: Salvation Army Hall, 3-11 Albion Way, Lewisham SE13 6BT,

Speakers: Professor Grant Macaskill, Kirby Laing Chair of New Testament Exegesis and Director of the Centre for the Study of Autism and Christian Community, University of Aberdeen.  Kirstyn Oliver, M.A., Founder and Director of Alma Autism.

Programme:

10.30am Welcome
11.00am

“Why Faith Commitments and Church Involvement Matter in Thinking about Autism.” Prof. Grant Macaskill, University of Aberdeen“Why Faith Commitments and Church Involvement Matter in Thinking about Autism.” Prof. Grant Macaskill, University of Aberdeen

12noon

“Autism and the Experience of Diagnosis and Church Involvement” Kirstyn Oliver, Alma Autism. 

1.00pm - 2.00pm Break
2.00pm - 3.30pm

Open discussion “Barriers to the integration of autism support and the life of the church”