Practical Tip #39- Interacting with Non-Verbal Church Attendees

stained glasses
Photo by Magda Ehlers on

Over the past six months, we have seen growth and development in our non-verbal son, Tristan. We have always taken him to church. This is a pattern and routine that is part of his world.

However, in this past six months, Tristan has enjoyed greeting time! He looks forward to shaking people’s hand. We have only been a part of this particular church for two years. Many of these people are not familiar to him. That’s what makes this exciting for us—to see him grow socially!

For those on the outside of the world of autism can we share something? We know he enjoys greeting time because of his subtle visual cues. We can see when his eyes light up. We see Tristan extend his hand first.

We are going to go deeper into this conversation of interacting with non-verbal church attendees. We know it can be awkward to interact with a non-verbal person. This is what we have learned:

Non-verbal does not mean a person does not communicate. Communication happens, but differently. Facial expressions and gestures are what we watch for when we are discerning Tristan’s wants and needs. By the way, we all use non-verbal communication; we just may not realize the extent of it.

When you greet a non-verbal person, you can greet them like anyone else. For example, you can state your name and ask him/her a question. How are you today? How is the weather? The only difference is this becomes a one-sided conversation. Can we let you in on a secret? We have one-sided conversations with our non-verbal son all the time. Unless the topic is about food, we usually do not get an answer! That is okay. We work hard on including him throughout the day.

We hope this helps someone understand autism, especially on Sunday mornings!


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