Suffer the children (with autism) -- to come to church

Ten-year-old Chandler Garrard, clad in a white athletic shirt and gray camouflage pajama pants, promptly tears off his sneakers and socks when he enters the Millpond LDS Ward meetinghouse in Tooele County one Sunday morning this fall.

Sitting in the back of the room during Primary, he occasionally yelps and jumps up to contort his body, prompting a few children to turn and stare. Enamored of The Book of Mormon in Spanish that he picks up in the church's library, Chandler perfunctorily dumps it in the garbage can.

During sacrament meeting, Chandler -- flanked by his parents, Stephen and Ashlyn Garrard, his brother and his sister -- pushes against the bench in front of him with his bare feet, jostling a middle-aged couple.

It is one of those moments that Ashlyn is talking about when she articulates a longing that seems universal among parents with autistic children:

"We spend our lives trying to be invisible, the family nobody notices."

Indeed, many parents of children with autism give up on public worship altogether, weary of the frustration and embarrassment, angry with the real or perceived judgment of others.

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