Dear Dr. Bill,
Our 3-year-old son was recently diagnosed with autism. He also has permanent hearing loss and wears hearing aids. My husband and I no longer attend church on a regular basis because of our son’s moods and tantrums. The pastor was concerned about our situation, but there are no programs or services that can help us because the church is so small. Certain teachers in the children’s ministry have been helpful, but it’s never consistent, and I wonder what we’ll do as our son gets older.
We often feel isolated and helpless since no one in the Christian community seems to understand what we’re going through on a daily basis. Do you have any suggestions for how our family can find the support we need?
I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. Here at Focus on the Family we often hear from parents with special needs kids who have similar stories.
The fact is that many churches aren’t equipped to offer practical help to families with special needs children. From your description, it sounds like your pastor really cares, but the church simply doesn’t have the staff or the resources to effectively serve your son.
I’d suggest you ask your son’s pediatrician and therapist if they might know of a larger church in your area that has a special ministry to families like yours. This might involve a bit of drive every Sunday, but it’s likely to find the support and encouragement you receive to be well worth the extra effort.
Also, Joni Erickson Tada’s organization, “Joni and Friends,” has a referral service that connects families with special needs kids with local churches that have such programs. You can learn more at their website, joniandfriends.org.
Let me also recommend a book you’ll find helpful. It’s called “A Special Kind of Love: For Those Who Love Children With Special Needs.” The authors are Susan Osborne and Janet Mitchell.
Thanks for writing Nicole.
If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, just click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.