Autism Initiative

About Us

What happens when you are thrown into a life that neither you nor anyone else really understands? Children with Autism are NOT text book. You can’t say this will work or that won’t. It isn’t that easy. You have to think outside the box, anticipating the next move. Caring for a child struggling with Autism is all about observation. It’s like playing chess; you watch for the move and act accordingly before the move is made. Being proactive works, but in most cases anticipation is the key. That is why life is so exhausting for families struggling with Autism: they never have any “down time”!

The Autism Initiative is dedicated to helping families struggling with special needs find the “down time” the rest of the world takes for granted. We strive to create short-term respite communities in which entire families can enjoy one another without concern for whether or not their children’s behavior will be appropriate or be made to feel out of place. We offer two refreshing solutions for the family: a week long camp that incorporates the arts and a weekend family retreat.

Additionally, the Autism Initiative offers the spiritual resources of the Christian faith community, working with knowledgable professionals in the field of Autism and special needs, to enhance the respite experience and offer the expertise necessary to plant a seed of understanding within the local faith community for special needs ministries.

Missionaries wanted: If you are interested in being a short-term missionary for Autism Initiative’s Autism Family Retreat, September 20-22, 2019, please contact Rev. Dr. Ed Saxman at for more information. A love for God, a heart for special needs children, PA #33 & #34 clearances are required. Scholarships are available. Download a copy of the Autism Family Retreat 2019 Registration Form.

bishop“The integration of personal holiness with social holiness has always been at the heart of who we are as United Methodists. The importance of including special needs within our congregations is one of the ways in which our local churches can embody what we believe. The Autism Initiative is a way for pastors and other leaders to increase their awareness and involvement in this important issue. I believe it will open hearts, minds and doors to potential ministries with those of special need and encourage everyone’s faithful participation in this event.

Thomas J. Bickerton
Former Bishop of 
Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference

Short Term Missionary Opportunities

If you are a committed Christian, passionate about ministering to children, teens, or adults and are interested in learning more about Autism, this is the experience for you!
Check out the pdf brochure for more details.

Autism Initiative Vision Statement

To create short-term “respite communities” within Western Pennsylvania that will allow families with children who struggle with Autism to combine coveted family time with an opportunity for parental free time. The respite experience will provide time for worship, rest, and relaxation in a safe, affordable, interactive, Christian setting capable of caring for children with Autism.To identify and initiate opportunities to advance the full inclusion of families struggling with Autism into faith-based communities.To aid local congregations in creating an experience of worship and welcoming in an interactive Christian setting capable of caring for children with Autism.