Ever since I found out that I was going to be a mom, I have had one major parenting question. “How am I going to teach my child about God?” And here I am…5 years later…wondering the same thing. “How am I going teach my child with autism about God?”
We know that abstract concepts, like faith, are difficult for most children to understand. However, generally speaking, those who have ASD find abstract concepts to be even more difficult. Give them a math problem & they can grasp that idea in no time. But something that is not tangible or visible, and you are in a whole new ballgame.
Shortly after Ethan was diagnosed with classic autism, my mom, husband & I attended one of Dr. Temple Grandin’s conferences. This question was brought up to
Templeby another one of the attendees. Dr. Grandin responded by saying, “Teach them by your example. Teach them the Golden Rule. Follow the 10 commandments. Be love. Be God to them.” What a great answer for us all.
Recently, a friend asked me for some ideas to help her son who has recently been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. It wasn’t related to this topic, but it got me thinking…maybe I should start posting what I have learned in list form?! So, here are my tips for teaching children with ASD about God & your faith.
7 Tips to Teach Your Child With ASD About God
- Be a Christ-like example to them. Show them God’s love, and do this wherever you are…not just at church. Be Christ at home, at the grocery store, at Walmart, at family functions….everywhere. Even though it may not seem like these kiddos are paying attention.....they are. Are we going to get this one right 100% of the time? Probably not, but our kids are smart enough to know when we are putting on a show and when we are being genuine. Galations 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
- Read to them about God. Find an age-appropriate Bible & read it to them when you read books. Or maybe do this as a special time before bed or first thing in the morning. There are lots of books that just teach about Bible stories such as Jonah & the Whale or Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Include these in your book collection. Does your kiddo like to use headphones? Get him some audio books to listen to! 2 Timothy 3:15 "...and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures,which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
- Sing songs about God. This Little Light of Mine, I’ve Got the Joy, Jesus Loves Me…simple songs that instill great messages in their minds & hearts. We recently discovered the “Go Fish Guys,” and Ethan LOVES them. Not only do they sing songs about God, but they also have a few silly songs thrown in…and their sound doesn’t make me want to pull my hair out when we listen to it over & over & over & over again. :0) Colossians 3:16 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."
- Pray together. This is an easy routine to start with kids on the spectrum. Most of our kiddos LOVE routines. Having them talk to God & thank Him for their food before they eat is something that my Ethan caught onto pretty quickly. Even when he wasn’t very verbal, he would fold his hands together before we would eat. And PS….once they get this new routine down, it’s a GREAT reminder for you too! “Mom, don’t forget to pray!” James 5:16 "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."
- Memorize scripture. My son’s brain is like a sponge. He LOVES to learn, and this is an area where he can really shine. To start, use a short verse. We started with “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We focused on one scripture a week. We would use it as our prayer before we would eat. We would say it before bed. I wrote it on construction paper, cut it out in a fun shape & hung it in our home where Ethan would see it. We would incorporate it into our sensory play…focusing on the word strengthens as we would do our heavy work or the word all while we were practicing counting. Ethan enjoyed counting how many words were in his scriptures, and playing, “I Spy” with letters. (Example: Can you find “wh” or how many letter “s” can you find.) ANYTHING to get them to see the words or understand the words. And just to brag on my kiddo….Ethan has memorized John 3:16 and The 23rd Psalm! Psalm 119:11 "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."
- Go to church. I know this one can be a bit difficult given our kid’s special needs, sensitivities, and sometimes their behavior. But I encourage you to do this one. Sometimes it takes someone else’s words & actions for a concept to finally get through to our kiddos. Just like how their therapists & teachers have special tips & tricks, so do children’s workers at your church. They may hold the missing key to your child understanding an abstract concept. Maybe your child is like our son & he has a hard time with noise or lots of kiddos in one classroom. Talk with the leaders of your church to see what they can do for you. For us, we have started to just attend the Wednesday night service. The classroom size is smaller, thus making it a bit quieter, there are more teachers in his classroom, and he is only in there for one hour. A friend of mine only brought her son for the music portion of the worship service. He loved the loud music, loved singing loud, and loved that he could stand & move around. However, sitting for the sermon was too difficult, so they would leave before that began. She would then find a sitter so she could attend Bible study through the week in order to fill her cup. Make it work for you, but I believe that this is a necessary step for our kids. Ephesians 4:16 " From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."
- Surround yourself with other believers…including their peers! If we could put our children in a bubble & keep them from the scary things in this world, we would soooo do it, wouldn’t we?! But that’s not really an option, so we try to teach them to deal with all this world has for us…the good & the bad. Having friends that know Jesus will help your child as he/she grows. Having other kids/teachers at school that know about God & try to do what He wants them to do is a great help to our kids. It’s like having someone on their team or in their corner. And I would start looking for friends like that even when your children are itty-bitty! We are very blessed to have a large family of believers so Ethan’s 9 cousins are all being raised in faith-based homes. We also attend a large church & many of Ethan’s friends will be in school with him. (Yet another great reason to go to church!) Not only is this tip important for our kids but for us as parents as well. Don’t we need someone in our corner? People who can support us in a Christ-like manner? I hope you are nodding your head YES! Hebrews 10:24-25 "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
My son is only four but these are the things that I am trying to do to help Ethan know God & His love. And I think it’s working! I’ll tell you more about that in my next post! Stay tuned for some great kid questions about God, Jesus, Heaven, Angels, and more courtesy of Ethan!