When we think of making adaptations for the bulletin, the church’s weekly guide to worship and activities within the church, we often focus on increasing the font size to help older worshipers read the information.
It is a good and helpful adaptation. What would you do, though, for an autistic individual? Have you ever considered creating a bulletin specifically for the autistic community?
There are three simple ways that you can provide an engaging bulletin or communication tool that can help autistic individuals participate in the life of worship.
One tool is to use a social story bulletin. A social story uses short stories and illustrated images to help convey a message or describe what is taking place. It provides context regarding a situation and guides the individual through the experience of that moment. For worship, a social story can help to convey expected social cues for various moments. A good social story bulletin includes when there will be music, when someone should be quiet, or if they have to do something new during worship. A social story doesn’t work for everyone, but it can be a great tool for a church wanting to be more inclusive.
Another tool to use is a visual bulletin. The visual bulletin uses pictures of the various elements of worship to help convey the necessary information. These pictures could include photos of a sanctuary, perhaps where someone would sit, a picture of the pastor for the sermon, or the choir for music. It is important, as well, to include photos of transitions and expectations, such as when you stand or leave to help guide the worship experience.
A third tool is to use a dry-erase board and write out the elements of worship. This is good to use with a volunteer or a parent. Someone writes each aspect on the board, and the parent or volunteer (or even the child) can wipe off what has taken place. The value of this tool is it shows an individual what remains in worship and can give them a better understanding of time.
No matter what tool you use, it is important to think about how a church conveys information with an autistic person about worship and what the worship experience will include. It is another way of working towards inclusion within the local church.