Autism and Religion

I was raised Catholic.

I married a Catholic man.

We had our wedding in a Catholic church.

We are raising our family by the Catholic faith.

So when I watched a video where a Catholic priest in New Jersey who demanded a little boy with non-verbal autism leave the church during his sister’s baptism, I felt many things at once.

It was a private ceremony.

The boy was off to the side, stimming and running and self-regulating.

I felt confused, and angry, and sad, and defeated.

I felt tired.

Hi.

My name is Carrie and I am married to a man named Joe. We have five kids. Our second son, Jack, has autism.

Watching the video made me tired, because I spend every single minute of every single day advocating for my son and his needs, and church was the last place I thought I needed to look.

There is no safe place for this boy and his diagnosis. It’s the sad truth.

This is the cost of love.

Specifically, this is the cost of autism love.

This is the cost of loving a boy who is diagnosed and different.

This is the cost of encouraging people to see him through my lens, as a child of God who worships on his own terms.

I hurt for him.

I hope for him.

When I see and read things like this, I try to clear out all the noise. I try to stop actively thinking for a moment, and ask myself some questions instead.

What do I want people to know about autism?

What do I want others to understand about my son?

What do I want in this messy life of ours that is truthful, and right, and true?

I want people to know autism is a neurological disorder.

It is not his fault.

It is no one’s fault.

It is not his fault he moves his body spontaneously and makes noise when everyone is quiet and slides on and off the kneelers.

I want people to know that finding the right church is a lot like finding a life partner. You might have to look around for a while. You might date one for a bit before you realize they are rude to people in restaurants, or intolerant of different points of view.

And when that happens, you just pick your rear end right up off that pew, and move to another parish—one that suits your family and child.

God doesn’t care, you see. God wants us to be choosy, I think. He wants us to stand in His house, and feel not a single sensation other than welcome and love.

Because of autism, it’s true Jack learns differently than most.

Yet he does learn.

He understands religion differently than many.

Still, he feels close to God.

In his own way, he connects with the church.

On his own level, he is capable of spirituality so raw, and real, it would take your breath away.

He takes my breath away.

The day he made his First Communion, he stood so tall, and proud.

It took a while to work him through the idea of eating The Body of Christ in a wafer. But we worked him through it. And when he got to the head of the line on his big day, he spread his palms for the offering, tossed it back like one would a potato chip, and made a big announcement.

For me now. Jesus is in me.

And that, my friends, is how Jack does church.

Anything is possible.

That’s what I want people to know.

Written by, Carrie Cariello

Carrie Cariello is the author of What Color Is Monday, How Autism Changed One Family for the Better, and Someone I’m With Has Autism. She lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband, Joe, and their five children. 

Carrie is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY Parents, the TODAY Show, Parents.com. She has been interviewed by NBC Nightly News, and also has a TEDx talk.

She speaks regularly about autism, marriage, and motherhood, and writes a weekly blog at www.carriecariello.com. One of her essays, “I Know What Causes Autism,” was featured as one of the Huffington Post’s best of 2015, and her piece, “I Know Why He Has Autism,” was named one of the top blog posts of 2017 by the TODAY Show.

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Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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