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Autism (ASD), congregation, leaders, integration, accommodation, programs, education, training.
The purpose of this study was to explore congregational responses to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The limited research around ASD and congregations reveals a lack of engagement with, and integration of, persons with ASD. In the current study, a mixed methods approach focused on congregational leaders’ knowledge, perceptions, and interests regarding ASD and related education and programming. A quantitative element assessed leaders of congregations by means of a survey (N=121), while a qualitative element offered participants an opportunity to comment on the survey (n=51) and participate in an interview (n=12). An analysis of the data suggests that leaders’ knowledge of ASD was higher than anticipated but that formal programming was lacking in smaller churches. Responses in smaller churches were less formal, occurred on a case-by-case basis, and were led by professionals and parents native to those churches. Leaders reported an interest in more education and training regarding .
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