PF Personal 2
Autism Parents: Do You Make These Mistakes? #CHURCH

Autism Parents: Do You Make These Mistakes? #CHURCH

We haven’t been to church since Easter. I get a lot of anxiety when we take Angel to church because of his behavior, so we sit out most Sundays. Last Easter, we had a good experience because one of the staff in the church’s child care room works with kids with autism.

Is this the church we went to today? No. We decided to go to another church, which is a little closer to home. Thankfully Angel’s community habilitation staff, “Mr. L” works on Sundays because we really needed the extra support. I have compiled a list of the mistakes I made and this is my way of telling you not to follow in my footsteps.

  1. I did not take my “bag of tricks.” A very close friend of mine told me that whenever she takes her daughters out, she always has her “bag of tricks.” If I had taken her advice, I would’ve had my bag full of all the things that Angel likes to keep him occupied. My bag would have been filled with blocks, ipad, etch a sketch, crayons, paper, and a toy truck. Instead of the things he loves, I only took a fidget and it ended up being a big joke. Angel kept throwing it behind the pew and it did not keep him attentive.
  2. I did not call to find out if they had Sunday School. On the rare occasion that we go to church, I try to make sure that they have child care or at least Sunday School, i.e. something to keep Angel engaged for two plus hours. Well today when we got to church, I found out that there is no Sunday School until September. I know my son and there is no way he was going to sit still for a two and a half hour church service. I knew right away that our experience was going to be a hot mess.

    Angel posing after church. The calm after the storm.

  3. I did not have enough snacks. Who knew that Angel would develop a ravenous appetite in the middle of the church service? Within one hour of the service, his snack bag was empty. As the service progressed, Angel starts yelling: “Apple! Apple!”  “I do not have any apples,” I replied.  Then he yells, “Grapes! Grapes!” “I do not have any grapes,” I replied. And on and on he went. During the course of the service, he asked for pizza, cake (which he does not even like), snacks, and food. Then he started banging his head on the back of the pew ahead of us because he was upset that I had no more snacks. I promised him popcorn but he did not want to wait. At that point, I needed Jesus to just come and take the wheel.
  4. I decided to let Angel stay with “Mr. L” while I went for communion. Boy was that a mistake. Angel started screaming because he wanted to come to the altar with me. It was a mess. “Mr. L” tried to contain Angel. God bless him. He really tried. Despite the fact that Angel bit and scratched him.
  5. We went to church. Oh sorry. Did I write that? I am on the fence about this last one but in the spirit of being honest I added it. Every time Angel screamed as he tossed and turned UNDER the pews, the thought cross my mind. Yes I know, I have to expose him to different environments. But in the heat of the moment that was the last thing on my mind. I do hope that as we go out more, things will get better. Are we going to church next Sunday? I really can’t say. Time will tell.

P.S. We did get glares and stares from some members of the congregation but overall they were okay. Update: I stand corrected. I just learned that while I was getting communion one of the ushers asked “Mr. L” if Angel has autism. He answered, “Yes. And?” I guess the usher’s tone was not tolerant. Can’t win them all.

Do you take your child to church? What has been your experience? Please share in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Sincerely, 

Miz Kp

Miz Kp
Written by Miz Kp

14 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    July 06, 2014

    I feel ya! Today Danny climbed all over me. Hugging and kissing me! It was what most parents would call “sweet”. And yes, it was sweet! Especially since he’s not ordinarily that open with loving expression. But, when my 7 year old, starts pressing his face to mine while holding my head in place, it gets a bit uncomfortable. He has NO idea how strong he actually is! Sometimes he truly hurts us. I try to ALWAYS put some essential oils on him before (that’s the key!) we leave the house. Church for us is half an hour away. It gives him time to chill out on the way there. The bag of tricks is sometimes a lifesaver, BUT…the trick to that bag, is to let him pick out what’s in it! I could put all sorts of things in it, but it would undoubtedly be the WRONG things for THAT day! Just like any other kid, he has different favorites from day to day. Snacks for some, work. But I’d end up having to pack a full on lunch! He always has a huge appetite!! I have packed snacks in a cooler and they get them when we get done. Yes yes…bribery, I know. I figure it’s also a way of teaching them patience. =) For me the essential oils are the key ingredient for the day! I also use these oils during the school year. Danny’s teachers know when he’s “got his oils”…they can smell them and they love the smells =) They can also tell if he doesn’t have them! His teacher has contemplated using a diffuser in the classroom. one other thing is to start priming him the day before. Telling him over and over during the day, that we have church tomorrow. Getting his clothes out and reminding him that we have church tomorrow. After a few weeks he quit getting quite so agitated at the not understanding WHAT church was/is. I’ve read of one A+Mom who made a visual chart that she uses whenever they go anywhere. The “what next” chart. It has a picture for everything on their to do list for the day. Say they start with Walmart. Then Dollar General. Then the dry cleaners. After that lunch. The gas. Then home. or whatever. But there was a picture backed with velcro for each place. When they got done they removed the picture. That way the child knew what was coming up next. I have considered doing this for Danny. He has anxiety issues with public places. And yeah…he hates Walmart. Good Luck!!!

    Reply

    • Avatar
      July 07, 2014

      I have heard about oils and some parents, like you, have seen some good benefits. I admit I need to do a visual schedule for when we go out. I have a social story binder but it only covers swimming and baseball. Good luck to you also.

      Reply

  2. Avatar
    July 06, 2014

    So sorry you went through that. Niko gets bored at church but he actually for the most part, behaves. His little brother on the other hand does have problems sitting still. This is just to say, even the typical kids act out. He will run back and forth up the pews, throw the misselette, bother the other church goers and ask for food and iPad. Maybe you can try bringing your bag of tricks also when sunday school is available. At the end of the day God will hear you every where. You have your faith and can pray whenever and where ever you want. Hope next time it will be better. Plus, he will get older and become more tolerant over time.

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    • Avatar
      July 07, 2014

      Good idea, Shirley and you are so right. God will hear me anywhere.

      Reply

  3. Avatar
    July 06, 2014

    Perhaps since people, who may not have people in their lives who have these experiences, it would be a good idea to have the celebrant say something or have something mentioned during announcements or in the bulletin to remind people: Please consider that we children of God are all unique and some of us may be different from others. Please keep in mind, as we try to have compassion and understanding for one another to look at each other with the love of Christ and consider that continuous crying or sounds from children or even outbursts from adults may be an inevitable action or uncontrollable response and please remember how important it is that everyone who wants to attend service gets to come. Afterall, the celebrant is speaking on a microphone, lest assume there is a microphone as many attendees may assume a child is “unruly” as they think with a narrow-minded spirit.

    Reply

    • Avatar
      July 07, 2014

      More pastors need to consider creating a church environment that is welcoming to people of all abilities and disabilities.

      Reply

  4. Avatar
    July 07, 2014

    We haven’t brought our younger son to church in many, many years. We go to separate services with our older son and have for years. Ironically, my parents are the most critical of this. Not because the younger son doesn’t go but because WE don’t go every week. Sigh.

    Reply

    • Avatar
      July 07, 2014

      Yeah sometimes parents are so caught up in tradition that they do not take special circumstances into account. Hope over time your parents become more understanding.

      Reply

  5. Avatar
    July 07, 2014

    Having acknowledged what you described as mistakes, I hope you will face the challenge as you do with other aspects of Angel’s life. My prayers are with you.

    Reply

    • Avatar
      July 07, 2014

      Thank you. That is our plan.

      Reply

  6. Avatar
    July 10, 2014

    A wise person once told me that the solution is to take my son to church MORE often, not less often, because it becomes a part of the normal routine and becomes a safe, relaxing haven. My son serves at the altar now. It is never easy for him, but he serves joyfully and everyone can see that. If the usher or anyone else is giving you attitude, please discuss it with your pastor. The deacon and pastor at my church have made it clear that they want families to worship *together.* I am praying for your family and hope that you will have a successful experience together.

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    • Avatar
      July 12, 2014

      Thanks for your prayers. It is amazing that your son serves at the altar. You do make a good point to attend more often rather than less. Hoping I can get to that point one day.

      Reply

  7. Avatar
    July 13, 2014

    I actually have never taken my son to church, I usually attend with my mother when I do go. But in the event that I am unable to attend ( working or school assignments) I then send him with my mother in my place. The members are aware of his diagnosis and its a really small church, my mother tells me that they allow my son to walk around and just be himself. The Pastor even encourages my son and tells everyone to leave him alone! I think he behaves better when he is with my mom at church , I don’t think he would behave so well if I were there.

    Reply

  8. Avatar
    July 13, 2014

    I find that too many people in church attendance are wrongfully judgmental of persons on the autism spectrum. I have seen looks from others, stares from others and even heard comments mentioned whether directed at me or not. Very uncomfortable. The one place where I would expect a judge free zone and it is totally the opposite. Should I say something right then and there and put someone in their proper place?

    Reply

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