The Office of Worship and Evangelization strives to increase awareness of disabilities by assisting parishes with information and strategies for effective communication about persons with disabilities:

Down Syndrome

March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day and the theme this year:  “With us not for us”

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder first described in psychiatric literature in 1943.  While the definition of ASD has changed over time, the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V, 2013) defines ASD as involving both persistent deficits in social communication/interaction and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior.  Additionally, individuals with ASD may or may not have significant deficits in language, and may or may not have significant deficits in cognitive abilities. According to the CDC, 1 in 36 children are diagnosed with ASD in the United States, March 24, 2023.

As a “spectrum,” ASD characteristics vary considerably in severity and type. On one end of the spectrum, features of Autism Spectrum Disorder in a particular person are mild and sometimes not easily identifiable. These characteristics may include difficulties in picking up on social cues, or difficulty making eye contact. On the other end of the spectrum, a person could have ASD characteristics which are considerably more profound and include significant cognitive, communication and functional impairments.. It is believed that about one-third of individuals with ASD are non-verbal, and some have significantly challenging behaviors. In order to ensure that all persons with ASD can meaningfully participate in the Church, individualized attention is key, as well as a diverse repertoire of resources and accommodations.

Today, Catholics across the United States are becoming more aware of ASD which has led to effective teaching styles, accommodations, and education in parishes across the United States. Adults with ASD are writing about their experiences in ministry and Catholic publishers are creating faith formation curriculum that engages different learning needs. Behavior Analysts are working with diocesan directors to help individuals with ASD meaningfully participate across the life-span in the liturgy, and Catholic parents are sharing their input on the needs of individuals more profoundly affected by ASD.  (National Catholic Partnership on Disabilities,

Blind / Vision loss

Today, there are accommodations that help individuals who are blind or who have low vision meaningfully participate in the life of the Church as students, clergy members, pastoral leaders, teachers, and more. Parishes can help to promote the meaningful participation of these individuals by offering parish materials in braille, in large print, and in electronic format. It is important to be aware of the accommodations available for people who are blind or who have low vision so that parishes can benefit from the vocations of more individuals. (


Deafness / Hearing Loss

In order to promote the meaningful participation of all Catholics within the Church, it is important to not only be aware of different types of accommodations, but also different types of cultures that may arise from physical differences. There is a broad spectrum of auditory differences which call for varying types of accommodations or programs. 

Deafness / Deaf Culture:

Across all age groups, approximately 600,000 people in the United States are Deaf (Gallaudet University). Many people do not consider Deafness to be a disability. Since Deaf people have their own language with distinctive cultural and linguistic features, many Deaf people consider their communicative abilities to be fully thriving.  There are a number of dioceses and archdioceses in the United States that have Deaf Apostolates or diocesan offices which engage Deaf culture. These offices coordinate the active participation of Deaf people in weekly liturgies, the sacraments, faith formation, and youth ministry. In our Church today, there are ordained priests and deacons that are Deaf, Deaf Catholic Pilgrimages, and homilies available in American Sign Language online.

While accessibility for the Deaf community is becoming more common within the Church, there is still an urgent need for improvement! The National Catholic Office for the Deaf estimates that 96% of Catholics are unchurched. Even though Deafness is not always considered a disability, the National Catholic Partnership on Disability still engages in the topic of Deafness because the Church desires the meaningful participation of Deaf people. NCPD stands with NCOD in the belief that parishes and dioceses can implement practical initiatives to ensure that Deaf Catholics are meaningful participants in the life of the Church. Captioned Videos, Sign language interpreters, Deaf Masses, and Diocesan Deaf Apostolates are all initiatives that can promote this meaningful participation.

Hearing loss:

Some people may consider their auditory difference to be a disability if it prevents them from communicating fully. These individuals may have cochlear implants or may use assistive listening devices. People who lose their hearing later in life because of trauma or old age experience hearing loss which they may or may not consider to be a disability. Captioned videos, American Sign Language interpreters, and assisted listening devices are all examples of accommodations that may help to promote the participation of people who have hearing loss. (

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD)

This page covers both intellectual and developmental disabilities. Developmental disabilities are impairments in physical, learning, language, or behavior that begin during the developmental stage and typically last throughout a person’s lifespan (CDC). An example of a developmental disability is cerebral palsy, which is a motor disability that prevents a person’s ability to move their muscles (CDC)​. Developmental disabilities include--but are not limited to--intellectual disabilities which limit a person’s adaptive functioning in conceptual, practical, and social domains (APA). Intellectual disabilities include autism spectrum disorder, down syndrome, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. It is important for parishes and families to not make assumptions about the capabilities of a person with a developmental or intellectual disability since the capabilities and limitations of each person with these conditions varies widely. NCPD has a Council on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities which works to provide resource to promote the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities in the Church. (

Physical Disability

Since physical disabilities vary greatly in type and severity, finding the right resources and accommodations for a person with a physical disability requires particular individualized attention. Types of physical disabilities include traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, and spina bifida.  This page has resources such as support groups, access surveys, and stories which may help to promote the meaningful participation of persons with physical disabilities in the life of the Church. (

ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Typically, ADHD symptoms arise in early childhood. According to the DSM-5, several symptoms are required to be present before the age of 12. Many parents report excessive motor activity during the toddler years, but ADHD symptoms can be hard to distinguish from the impulsivity, inattentiveness and active behavior that is typical for kids under the age of four. In making the diagnosis, children should have six or more symptoms of the disorder present; adolescents 17 and older and adults should have at least five of the symptoms present. The DSM-5 lists three presentations of ADHD—Predominantly Inattentive, Hyperactive-Impulsive and Combined. The symptoms for each are adapted and summarized below.

ADHD predominantly inattentive presentation

  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention
  • Does not appear to listen
  • Struggles to follow through with instructions
  • Has difficulty with organization
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort
  • Loses things
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is forgetful in daily activities

ADHD predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation

  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair
  • Has difficulty remaining seated
  • Runs about or climbs excessively in children; extreme restlessness in adults
  • Difficulty engaging in activities quietly
  • Acts as if driven by a motor; adults will often feel inside as if they are driven by a motor
  • Talks excessively
  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Difficulty waiting or taking turns
  • Interrupts or intrudes upon others

ADHD combined presentation

  • The individual meets the criteria for both inattention and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD presentations.

These symptoms can change over time, so children may fit different presentations as they get older.  (


















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