Throughout Advent, Sparkhouse will be running a series of blog posts focused on neurodiversity at church. Neurodiversity is a term that refers to the existence of a range of neurological differences throughout the human population. Rather than viewing certain people with specific neurological differences—for example, autism spectrum disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Tourette’s syndrome, or dyslexia—as “broken” or “deficient” relative to the rest of the population, the neurodiversity movement seeks to view these differences as natural and neutral, rather than good or bad. The neurodiversity movement is largely made up of neurodivergent people—that is, people with one or more diagnosable neurological condition, such as the ones listed above. People who are not neurodivergent are called neurotypical.
In this blog series, we’ll hear from several people who have experiences with neurodivergence, either because they’re neurodivergent themselves or because they have experience with neurodivergent children and youth. We’ll hear about some of the challenges of being neurodivergent or working with neurodivergent kids, as well as tips for adapting your ministry to include them. We’ll also hear about some of the gifts that come with neurodivergence. Viewing neurodivergence as neutral, rather than good or bad, does not mean ignoring the fact that many, if not all, neurodivergent conditions come with challenges. Rather, it seeks to highlight that neurodivergence often also comes with strengths, and that many of the challenges neurodivergent people face are not a result of the conditions themselves but rather a result of living in a society built for neurotypical people.
As the Sparkhouse blog, of course, we’ll be focusing especially on neurodiversity at church. First, we’ll hear from an autistic adult about ways to make Sunday school autism friendly. Next, we have an article from a Director of Youth and Family Ministry about how to adapt confirmation programming for neurodivergent children and youth. Then, we’ll hear from a parent of a child with Down syndrome about how to include nonverbal children in Sunday school. After that, there’s an article from a pastor whose child has autism, anxiety, and sensory processing disorder about the difficulties of taking communion. Finally, we’ll hear from a pastor with ADHD about what she wishes you knew about ADHD in adults.
As the field of psychology advances, we’re learning more about our own brains, each other’s brains, and how we differ from each other. This doesn’t need to lead anyone to feel broken, nor does it need to lead anyone to feel superior. Rather, having a better understanding of each other’s strengths, challenges, and differences can help us all be more patient and compassionate with each other, whether we’re neurodivergent or neurotypical. After all, treating people how they want to be treated is even better than treating them how you would want to be treated, and understanding can help us get there.