Autistic teen receiving Eucharist


My son is 17 years old, with fairly severe autism. He’s non-verbal, meaning he doesn’t initiate speech, but he follows almost all commands. Whenever he’s been at Mass with me, I’ve walked him up to receive a blessing from the priest during distribution of Holy Communion because I’m afraid of how he’d react to being offered the host. Most things he’s offered to eat he refuses. I’d be mortified if he refused the Host.
Has anyone had any experience with autistic children receiving the Eucharist? How does the Church view receiving the Eucharist by people who may not be able to understand the significance of this act.



We have a non verbal boy who went through a special First Communion class( His teacher is a special education teacher) He doesn’t come up (at least not yet) but an extra-ordinary minster comes to him (Most of the time it is his father I have done it as well) For his First Communion Father went to the back of the ChurchHe does say “Amen” and sometimes “Jesus” (he does have some words.) It may take special planning. It was a beautiful thing. I hadn’t seen this boy stand so still as he did waiting for Jesus


The Church desires all to receive the sacraments. Especially the sacraments of initiation. So, eventually he should receive confirmation and communion.

Since he is in the Roman rite, he probably was not confirmed nor receive Eucharist at his Baptism, so arrange for him to receive them at a proper age/time/situation, but do not deny him these graces.

CCC paragraph 1306: Every baptized person not yet confirmed can and should receive the sacrament of Confirmation. Since Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist form a unity, it follows that “the faithful are obliged to receive this sacrament at the appropriate time,” for without Confirmation and Eucharist, Baptism is certainly valid and efficacious, but Christian initiation remains incomplete.


Thank you marytk and Evan for your input.
Evan, can you comment on the Catechism quote you shared? When it refers to Every baptized person…, do you know if that’s meant literally? It’s hard for me to see how someone with no comprehension of the matter could go through the usual Confirmation education, or would the normal educational training be dispensed with?
I know, I should probably speak with a priest, but I haven’t formally come back to the Church yet. Just throwing it out there.



I’ll leave it to another to provide the resources because I’m pressed for time, but if your son understands the Eucharist on the most basic level, he should receive.

Here’s a blog post from a mother of an autistic son and his First Communion:


Just because he doesn’t speak doesn’t mean he can’t understand … I would give your son a chance to be taught about receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Praying …

Dear Lord,

Please bless your autistic son to ease any problematic sensory overload so that he is able to function by being able to correctly process information in accordance with Your Will, such that his intelligence shine through and develop. Please shield him from ear-splitting noise levels, from lights and motions in the environment that are too dazzling, from smells that overpower, from ultra-sensitivity to touch, from keen taste that can make eating unpleasant … Please tone down these sensations to the point where they can be used as gifts of above average hearing, eyesight, touch, smell, taste rather than being overwhelmingly crippling distractors from interaction with the outside physical world.


If he was not born with the ability to innately recognize the non-verbal body language cues, gestures, the unspoken codes, or the nuanced verbal language and meanings within social interaction, please allow him to learn as much as You feel is for his good and for Your greater glory, … and grant patience to those around him.


Please spare him from those who, well-meaning or not, would prescribe medications that would end up doing more harm than good physically, emotionally, or mentally. Please instead let the medical treatments prescribed be the very best possible for him. Please spare him also from the stigma of labels but instead surround him with teachers who can draw out his natural gifts and talents based on his deep sense of focus and areas of interest. Let people see the good in him and give him plenty of opportunities to thrive and succeed as the unique individual he is, rather than being ostracized for being “different.”

St. Joseph of Cupertino, pray for him.


~~ the phoenix


You need to discuss special training options for your son. He may be able to receive a fragment of the host, or just the blood. Each person is different when there are special circumstances and needs. See what your Pastor suggests and go from there.


I worked at a Catholic school for young men with mental handicaps, including Autism. They all (except for the non-Catholics) received the Holy Eucharist without problems in chapel every day.


Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities


See the reference given by 1ke above. Also note that, in the Eastern Catholic Church, the sacraments of Confirmation and 1st Eucharist are given when the child is an infant in arms.

Historically, Confirmation was given by the bishop to all newly baptized children when he came to town. Usually before the child was 3 years old. Then 1st Eucharist could be given later or at the same time. Confirmation, in the ancient order of sacraments was always administered between Baptism and Eucharist.

In conclusion, there is no NEED for additional instruction if the Child will never be able to comprehend such instruction. In an emergency, the bishop may allow a priest to confirm a child in danger of death and give 1st communion.

As I first said: the church desires that we receive the sacraments. The instruction given is to allow greater graces, because the grace received is according to the disposition of the recipient. Your son would receive all the graces he would be disposed to receive and because there is little chance of he being in great sin, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit would occur immediately.

God bless you and your son.


Thank you for all the helpful replies. I’m very appreciative!


I know of one, who is like your son, where the dad brings his daughter up for communion. If by chance something goes wrong, she refuses, the dad then consumes the host.
I have only seen her refuse a few times as she is now used to it.
They spoke with the priest about what to do, etc, in case she refuses, etc. She is not only non-verbal, she has very little use of her arms, hands.
It is possible!
I would also ask about confirmation for your child.


We have a catechist that is a special ed teacher in the schools and she has prepared a number of children. One boy in particular goes up to receive with a parent by his side. The priest gives the parent the host (has been trained as an EMHC) and the parent puts the host in the boy’s mouth.


Others have already responded to your question, but I just have to chime in because I, too, have a son with autism who is also largely non-verbal at the moment. He’s only 5, though, so we haven’t gotten to the sacramental prep stage just yet. It will be coming for him someday, and it is something I have begun to think about more and more.

I’ll just say, though, that a Church who baptizes babies and gives the Eucharist to 7 year olds is not a Church that sets the bar of understanding very high. :wink: The Church desires all to have access to these sacramental graces. Certainly, the Church expects faith from those who receive the sacraments, but we are not talking about a need for doctoral level theological understanding.

Definitely talk to the priest and see what can be done. Loyola Press has some sacramental prep materials for those with autism.


That’s a touching story, but I wouldn’t recommend doing what she did by taking it upon herself to decide her son should have his First Communion.


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