I posted this question on my blog tonight.

Just curious as to what you think. I held a baptism class this last weekend and I got this comment on one of my baptism response forms:

"My child is autistic and I'm not sure how much he really understands. How do you usually address this?

So, what do you do with a child with special needs who's family has expressed a desire to have him or her baptized (specifically when you are unable to really determine their level of understanding)? I have some thought in my head, but I just thought I'd see what others had to say. Oh, and I haven't actually talked to the family or child, so I don't know where this child in particular is.

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Hmmm.... this thought has crossed my mind many times. I work with mentally impaired kids and have for almost 20 years. I often think how God is using my career in my ministry. Anyway, how do you know when a child really knows what baptism and salvation is really about? I think it is totally an individual thing. It depends on the heart of the child. If there is some understanding what it is all about then I would work with an autistic kid a little further so that he understands the process (especially being immersed in water) that could get an autistic kid freeked. I think alot depends on the severity of the disability. There are some kids who are low enough functioning it will take a long time before they are at a level of understanding. It also depends on your church's doctrine...must a person have full understanding of the concept of baptism?
I have not had a lot of special needs in my class but, from my past experience, when I treat them like the other children, they don't feel left out and they grow.

What I do is teach about Baptism. I make it real simple. I explain it and in fact use my puppet stage to demonstrate what will happen. I use a ball and get dirt on it and wash it off by putting in some water.

The more ways you can explain what it is, what it means, and what will happen, you will see the results. Plus, this may be the only chance this child will ever have an opportunity to do this.

I hope this helps and again, I have not had many in my class but again, look at the situation and what the child will need todo and evaluate. You may need to make some special arrangments for a little bit more private if needed.
Interesting question. This really combines two of my great passions... children's ministry and children with special needs. Salvation is a personal expierence and HAS to come before baptism. So if the child cannot verbalize or communicate in anyway a personal expierence of accepting Jesus's payment for our sins- then baptism probably isn't the right marker of where their at in understanding God. Equally important though is the fact that Jesus commands to let the children come to him- without hinderance. I think this child should be encouraged, and supported in their journey of discovering the truth and grace of God- at their own pace. I would reassure the parents about the innocece of a child- I personally believe that children before the developmental and spiritual level of comprehension about salvation will surely go to heaven.
I'm sure this questions was addressed long ago, but I just read this and needed to add my 2 cents...
At first glance, the issue of a family wanting to get their child baptized, autistic or not, concerns me. It's not like sending your car to get washed...in the case of baptism, the car would request to be washed (although I'm not a fan of the 'washed' metaphor used in baptism conversations because it gives an innaccurate image of what baptism is and does).

I think this question is answered differently based on theological issues. I don't believe baptism is required to get to heaven and I don't believe in infant baptism (since I believe one must 'choose' to be baptized and infants can't make that choice).

I don't understand autism in all it's facets, but in terms of a developmental issue, people with autism move at a different pace. I would imagine that a child with autism would slowly and gradually understand the concept of baptism a little more as they grow. I may be completely wrong.

One way or the other, my biggest issue with this situation is that the 'family is requesting' to have their child baptized...even knowing the situation with their child. I'm sure they're a little naive on the issue of baptism themselves and could probably use a little help understanding it themselves. I think if someone were to spend time talking with them about baptism, they would reconsider and possibly work in such a way as to make sure the baptism is....genuine (for lack of a better term).

Good conversation...I wish I had seen it a while back.

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