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Churches to be more understanding towards autistic worshipers, says activist

by Hannah Tooley

Around 70,000 people in the UK are thought to be on the autism spectrum.

Autism describes a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.

It is estimated that together with their families, around 2.8 million people whose lives are touched by autism every day.

Vanessa Bobb, CEO of A2NDVOICE, she told Premier's Big Breakfast how she struggled to take her autistic son to church, and she said the church needs to have a greater understanding of autism and how services can cater to people of all abilities.

A2NDVOICE advocates that autistic people should be for themselves, the family members that care for autistic people need their own voice.

Vanessa Bobb with Premier's Anna Cookson

Vanessa Bobb told Premier's Big Breakfast that race can play a part too: "As much as people don't realise - and I'll say it straight; having a child who is black and autistic you get labelled anyway in a sense.

"With my son they saw the behaviour before they see the diagnosis.

"So when I say to anybody he's autistic, they say no he's just a rude child, he needs to be disciplined."

She went on the say that the church has not always been helpful.

"Anybody can say put it in prayer, fast - but if you don't have the understanding where you're struggling, you're having sleepless nights - you're getting to church and want to be in a place of acceptance, but you're getting criticised for doing something wrong."

Vanessa Bobb said that lots of people find it hard to understand how an autistic person thinks: "If they're in an environment where they get up and walk out of the church it may be because of the way they're being treated, it may be sensory, it may be the smell of a perfume, it may be the tambourines, the sounds - but people don't realise that.

"What we don't see for an autistic person - there's a lot of things going on in their head."

Listen to Premier's Anna Cookson speak to Vanessa Bobb here:

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