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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I’d only do it if the kid has a desire to be baptized. Even if he didn’t ‘fully understand’ I would want that kid to WANT to be baptized. I don’t think I could do it if the parents just wanted to see their kid dunked under water so they could feel good about themselves…
And I sound like a terrible person…
I would spend time building a deep relationship with the child and with the family and that relationship will lead to trust and he will be able to talk one-on-one to me and I’ll know his heart and understanding of faith and baptism. That wouldn’t be one of those conversion experiences that happen overnight or because of many children being baptized at once, although I would let him observe baptism so he can see what is involved.
God bless you in your mentoring relationship with this child and his family.
I really like what Heather said. Special needs kids have accepted Christ and been baptized in our church. I think that with the special needs kids we just take more time to speak with the kids and the families before they are baptized. I have a son that is special needs (autism and cp) and we have found over the years that we need to have several different conversations with him on significant issues and then ask the same questions several different ways.
I agree with Mark, JC and Brenna. It all boils down to their relationship with Jesus and their desire to follow Him. If the child has a relationship with Jesus and shows signs of pursuing that relationship independent of mom or dad, then baptism is appropriate. Actions that define that pursuit will vary based upon the individual… special needs or not. Do they understand all of it? Who does?
I don’t entirely agree. This is an issue for us right now. My son is 13 and all his friends are being baptized. I have talked to him multiple times about faith, Jesus and baptism. He is high functioning but you cannot have a conversation with him about anything very deep and he may be completely incapable of doing so ever. But I believe that God goes beyond the limitations of special needs children. Often my son learns by doing. I want him to learn firsthand in a physical, tangible way what baptism is and I trust that God will take over in the spiritual realm when he sees fit. Physical acts of worship do not have to be lived out in tandem with spiritual reality. Sometimes things happen in the physical world (things we do out of obedience) and we don’t see a heart response until later. When it comes to autism there isn’t any guarantee of a person following the same order as other Christians. That’ s my two cents anyway and this just helped me answer my own question as to what to do with my son.
I have a severely autistic 6 year old. I know he doesn’t always understand what is being said to him and is mostly unable to answer back. However, he is completely innocent, and I hold a firm belief that God created him and therefore has claim to his soul. If He knows my son’s heart, having him baptized, I have then placed his soul into God’s hands and ultimately, God’s decision. I can’t make the judgement, but I can give him the opportunity. I will get my son baptized, and then I will leave the judgements to God. He’s still young yet, but I don’t see him purposefully or knowingly trying to break God’s laws, and really, even animals know their Lord, wouldn’t a child, even if they are different? It is our responsibility to give them the chance. I’m sure God understands the limits he placed on my son, even if he can’t verbally confirm it to me once baptized, God knows his heart and that is good enough for me.