Children who suffer from autism often seem to block out the world. Many stare into space either without speaking or speaking incomprehensibly, avoid touch, and engage in repetitive tasks that only they seem to understand.

But God will help you build relationships with autistic children, whether you're the parent of one or a friend or teacher who wants to help autistic children at church.

Here are some ways you can help autistic children:

  • Create and maintain a structured environment and routine for the children. They need lots of order in their lives to feel secure. Introduce changes slowly, with plenty of advance notice.

  • Be patient and persistent. Keep trying to engage the children, and reward them when they successfully communicate with you. But never push them. When trying to teach any skill, make sure you start at a level consistent with a particular child's ability to understand and perform it. Break down skills into small, easy tasks.

  • Create a visual timetable to help the children more tangibly understand the concept of time. Use photographs, drawings, or words (if they can read) to break down each day's schedule.

  • Enlist support from others - family, friends, health care workers, social service workers, and educators.

  • Maintain a sense of humor. Look for positive and funny things the children say and do, and enjoy them as much as possible.

Adapted from The Autistic Spectrum: A Parents' Guide to Understanding and Helping Your Child, copyright 2001 by Lorna Wing. Published by Ulysses Press, Berkeley, Ca., www.ulyssespress.com.

Dr. Lorna Wing, the mother of an autistic daughter, has been studying autism for 30 years. Her work with autistic children in the 1970s redefined the classic profile of autism and helped create the concept of autistic spectrum disorders. She is the psychiatric consultant for the National Autistic Society in the United Kingdom.

Do you know someone with autism? What challenges does he or she face? If you've tried to reach out to that person, how has God helped you do so? What encouragement would you like to offer parents, friends, and teachers of autistic children? Visit Crosswalk's forums to discuss this topic by clicking on the link below.