Child with Autism at Mass



I have stopped taking my five year old son to mass. This is breaking my heart. His autistic Meltdowns, screaming etc have made it impossible. What are the rules regarding Sunday Mass Attendance for those with autism/ADD? I presume they are dispensed due to disability?

NB my wife will look after him and baby at home and go to the late mass whilst my son and I go to the early mass

Also I could use some prayers. We rent a one bedroom flat and can’t afford to move. My wife has had to give up work to care for the autistic child. She has Aspergers. I have OCD&depression and have an ok job but doesn’t pay enough to move. I am losing hope


Praying for you.


I will be praying for you


I have a child on the spectrum. Going to mass is a challenge.

Are you in the US? If so, is your child receiving services either privately or through the public schools? In particular, is there an Occupational Therapist that can help you develop strategies for mass? Have you figured out what the trigger is for his meltdown?

Feel free to PM me if you’d like.


There aren’t any rules in this regard.

The mass obligation is a positive obligation. If one isn’t able to attend, one is not obligated. Disability/illness is certainly a valid reason. If your son is not cognitively above the age of reason, he has no obligation at all. If he is profoundly autistic and has received first communion, talk to your pastor about options for him to receive the eucharist at home.


And in case the OP isn’t familiar with the term ‘age of reason’, it means ‘seven years old or thereabouts’.

In other words, there is no obligation to take any child to Mass before the age of 7 (although many parents like to, of course).


Thankyou for your kind words. I live in godless England. Not far from London. We are getting some help at his school via a key worker and are grateful .Alas Local governments are facing cuts


I’d like to echo this. Can you ask for additional help or referrals from any therapists or from your children’s pediatrician? Can you get any kind of respite care? Does your parish have a social services office or can you reach out to your parish priest? Pastors know a lot of people and they may be able to put you in touch with someone. Do you have family or friends nearby?

I will be praying for you too. I do not have a child on the spectrum, but I do have one who has had some very real behavior problems, and Mass is a really difficult time to deal with them.


Prayers going out for all of you.

Our Father
Hail Mary
Glory Be


Thanks. I will pray for Faith and Hope in this exile. I thank God the Father for sending his Son for us all


England. I’m sorry I have no idea about resources in England.

Here is something you can do at home: figure out the trigger for his meltdown at mass. Is it the noise, a smell, the crowd, the sudden movements of sit stand kneel, etc.? Once you determine the trigger you can begin to work on coping mechanisms.

For instance, if it is noise, you can teach him to put his hands over his ears or wear headphones. This is a short term solution. You’ll want him to eventually learn how to regulate himself without aids. (You can practice self-regulation at times other than mass).

For my son, it was lack of physical sensory input. So, we hug him and/or massage him throughout mass. Or he stands and bounces on his toes. People stare, but he is fairly quiet and we make it through mass.


If it’s noise he can wear headphones.


I’ve seen it in a Catholic Church only once, but it had a semi sound-proofed room in the back specifically for fussy children. Maybe look around and see if there are any newer sanctuaries around you that make a similar accommodation.

Beyond that, I’m sure the Lord sees your situation and understands. If missing mass still bugs you, I doubt it would be difficult for you to get a formal dispensation of some sort. As always, take it up with your priest.


You absolutely have my prayers. I can’t imagine the difficulty.

It never bothers me when I hear children crying or being disruptive or loud when I know it is out of their control or very little. That said, I would speak with your parish priest about this. It’d be a shame if you had to keep your child from coming to Mass altogether, and you too.

I’ll pray for you.


Children who are over the age of 7, but due to disability have not achieved the cognitive state of a 7 year old, are also considered to be in the same group. So even once OP’s son turns 7, if he has not reached the ability to understand as a 7 year old normally would, it would not be an obligation.


You and your family are in my prayers. You’ve received some good feedback so far. As others have said, until someone has reached the age of reason, canon law (and the obligation to attend Mass) doesn’t apply. Not that we want to leave our kids at home until they turn 7, of course. But there is no sin in leaving him home at his age—and that’s apart from considerations regarding his autism, which would only increase the situations where missing Mass would be okay.

I have a son with autism, too. He’s 9, but I would be hard-pressed to say he has reached the age of reason yet (it’s hard to say as he’s non-verbal). He hasn’t received his First Communion yet. Mass can certainly be a challenge. We make it through by sitting in the cry room. For him, it helps him to have a “spot” wherever we go. When we go somewhere unfamiliar, he seems to look for a spot he can walk back and forth in until that becomes his place of familiarity amidst the unfamiliar.

I really don’t like sitting in the cry room. My goal is eventually to get back in the main part of Church. That will involve some re-training of where his “spot” in Church is. We’ll most likely have to bring him in multiple times when the Church is empty. We’re still working up the courage to make that step.

I want to encourage you that our autistic children have a place at Mass. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently. Certainly, for your own sanity and peace of mind, keeping him home when necessary is understandable. You do what you have to do. But don’t let anyone make you feel like you shouldn’t bring him to Mass. Jesus wants the little children to come to Him. That includes those with special needs. Even when they are being a bit challenging. :slight_smile:

God bless!



I leave my son at home if it’s an extra challenging day. There is no shame in that. But, no one is going to stop me from bringing him when I’m able.


They are called crying rooms or mother and child rooms and are just for this purpose to stop the child disturbing the mass.


This may be controversial but I read the other day that many parents in the USA are giving kids with Autism cannabis cookies and it brings their behaviour way down to normal levels.

If it was my Child I would be looking here and I am a social worker with a lot of experience and I know that there are many therapies and love is always the best treatment but when you need something quick maybe this can help.
You’ve a heavy cross and I pray you have the strength to carry it all the way.


There is a Catholic parish in Macclesfield, Cheshire where the children with Down´s syndrome are altar servers. Maybe they can recommend someone who knows a lot about Autism or have some ideas you can try with your young one. The church is about a 10-15 minutes walk from the train station.

Your diocese may have some resources and ideas.

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