Why is church bad for Autistics? There are a number of reasons, well, there are for me.
- People... strangers... who you don't even know... come up and touch you. I have two prime examples of this. The first, and most distressing one for me, is when people "lay hands" on you. It's one thing to have a close friend touch you on your arm, but when two or more people are touching you all over your body, it freaks me out. The second example of this was last Wednesday night. My mother told the church that I was autistic and didn't like to be touched by strangers. However, my mother's group leader, someone who I didn't know, came up and hugged me from behind when I was sitting, taking biology notes, and "in my zone". I about wanted to reach back and punch the daylights out of the potential predator, but my morals told me to resist temptations.
- People smell funny. This may not seem like a big issue for most neurotypical people, but for me, it can arouse anxiety. On Easter weekend, I was at Sunday morning church, and I sat where I always sit, back in the upper booth corner, where I copy my biology notes (which is my "polite" way of saying "leave me alone, I don't want to be touched or talked to). It was a full house, so instead of me being alone up there, people had to sit next to me. The couple who sat next to me looked like they were straight out of a 1970's used car commercial, with the husband being the used car dealer. However, he smelled heavily of new carpet. Furthermore, they didn't take Communion, give an offering, or do anything that the church asked them to do. So, I have no clue why they even came to the congregation... maybe it was just to irk me. Upon telling my mother about this, she had quite a laughing fit, and didn't sympathize with me. The same goes for one of my church leaders.
- Emotional gauge overload, to put it lightly. When people go up and get prayed for, they start crying, when they were perfectly happy a second ago. They don't look like they were crying out of joy, or even sadness for that matter. As an autistic, I have difficultly gauging people's emotions, so to see this put me in overdrive, and therefore stressed me out and gave me anxiety. This was also the same night that strangers had laid hands on me.