By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to present class on Autism Awareness Sunday, September 28

Like many parents, Jessica Black was devastated when her daughter was first diagnosed with autism. “I was worried about how she would find her place in the world.” Although she was able to get help and support from the medical and even the school community, Ms. Black found it was often awkward and difficult to find that same support in the place she was accustomed to finding it the most, her church community.

“Oh, they were sympathetic, and wanted to help,” she says, “but they just didn’t know how. When it was time for my daughter to go to Sunday School class the teachers had a difficult time knowing how to handle her special needs.” 

When Rinda Baron was called as the Disabilities Specialist for the Lilburn Congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints she saw similar scenarios throughout her own church community. “The leadership came to realize that we needed education, not for the families directly effected by autism or other mental disabilities, but for rest of our community so they could understand HOW they can help.” 

Ms. Baron and her committee decided to offer classes on developmental disorders to the community so they can have a better understanding of those challenged with disabilities. "When we don’t understand it’s easy to become judgmental,” said Baron. “But when we understand what’s going on we can be compassionate.” 

Committee member Oliva Christensen agrees. “When people don’t know what to do they have a tendency to dance around the issues, and they may be missing clues that could tell them what they can do to help.” 

The classes don’t just focus on interacting with children effected by developmental delays. With the growing rate of autism and other mental disabilities, it’s important to understand how to support youths and adults effected as well. 

The first class offered in this series, “Autism Awareness” will be presented by Dr. Tyler Whitney, a licensed clinical psychologist with more than 13 years experience working with children and adolescents with emotional and behavior disorder, and 9 years experience working with families and children with autism.

Said Christensen, “I think it’s going to be a wonderful opportunity for people in our church community, or any church community to learn more so they can recognize the individuals that need help and learn how to offer more love, more support, more understanding. That’s really what a church community should be all about.”

The Autism Awareness class will be held Sunday, September 28th and 6:30 pm at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Lawrenceville Ward Building at 3354 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville, GA 30044. 

There is no charge for the class, and all are welcome to attend. Childcare will be provided for ages 18 months and older. Translation in Spanish as well as ASL will be available.