Welcoming Autistic People in our Churches and
Communities -Marriage, Sex, Relationships & Ceremonies; page 19
find the remainder of this document at Oxford Anglican Autism Guidelines
Autistic people in our congregations and parishes are as likely to want
intimate and long term relationships as everyone else. Be aware that
research is also showing that some 30% of autistic people do not identify as
heterosexual. A church ideally needs to be able to enable each person to get
the right relationship advice. Each deserves the chance to go into a faithful,
loving marriage or Civil Partnership with appropriate spiritual thought and in
the knowledge of all that may happen. This is something that may also need
support from a service such as a local autism adviser. The National Autistic
Society can direct to these www.autism.org.uk
Marriage, sex and relationships for partners where one or both is autistic can
present a number of challenges. It may work extremely well and lead to a
long and loving relationship, but equally it may not if there is a lack of
compatibility and understanding. One might, of course, say the same of any
If one partner is not on the autistic spectrum, there can be considerable
communication differences between them. Their partner might not realise why
they need to be very specific with instructions. Or they may feel sad that their
partner cannot tell if they are upset simply by looking at them. Even if both
are autistic, there can be differences in communication style and habits that
lead to particular problems. The autistic partner may feel anxious that they
are expected to be able to cope with big family occasions for hours, and may
fret about how to spot when their partner is upset. Both need to learn to
communicate well with one another, taking autism into account.
The book, “Love, Sex and Long Term Relationships” by Sarah Hendrickx is a
reasonable and well balanced guide, and may be worth recommending. It
talks in clear language about the positive and negative aspects of
relationships between those who are autistic and those who are not, for
example. The more understanding that a non-autistic partner has about their
husband, wife or partner, the better the chance of avoiding relationship
breakdown. Many autism charities offer links to relationship support and
counselling, so this is also worth them exploring if their relationship has
In terms of the marriage ceremony, you may find that this presents very little
trouble, as such things tend be to well rehearsed and much easier to cope
with than a standard church service. Unexpected events in the church may of
course present particular challenges, but there will usually be family and
friends there to lend assistance to anyone who needs it.
Many autistic people make excellent parents, especially if they have autistic
children. Again, support is often available through local autism charities, as
well as online in good social media groups1.
Broad Spectrum Disability and Marriage
There is not very much that leaps out of a web search but that as long as the couple are aware of the consequences of their actions marriage may take place.
Not the place here to examine contraceptives and the mandatory nature not to have children in many of these cases.
1. Disability – Diocese of Oxford. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.oxford.anglican.org/mission-ministry/faith-in-action/disability/. [Accessed 12 November 2015].