This is the fifth in a series of posts written by a mother of a son with autism, reflecting on her experience with her church community. Some of her observations serve as challenges to the way we do church, while others should be encouraging to the people who have made a difference in the lives of her and her family. The names in this story are fictional, but their experiences are not.
We’ve thought about just taking Michael in for music and then out but the auditorium itself has a lot of sensory stimulation. Michael is much calmer in small environments. There are strategies that could potentially accommodate him, but they are so much work to implement and I don’t think we could do it effectively on our own.
As you may have noticed through these stories, we avoid many social situations because of how labour-intensive and stressful they are for us. In fact, if we bring Michael these situations are often no longer ‘social’ for us because we’re focused on ensuring his well-being.
So, for now, Michael is happy doing his own thing at home on Sunday mornings and his dad and brother can worship in peace.
I realize the situation is different for every disabled person. I know of a few families at our church that have children with other disabilities and most have been accommodated in one form or another. My husband did meet someone a few years back whose wife stayed home because of their autistic son. I’m not sure that father attends any more. Even further back, there was another member of the church who had an autistic son who was able to be integrated in the Sunday school. I have no idea if they still attend our church. She did a wise thing and wrote a blurb in the newsletter we had at the time to inform the congregation on autism and her son. She may have even spoken to the congregation on this as well, but I am having difficulty recalling the details.
I can think of one adult autistic male with severe medical challenges who attends our church. He lives in a group living environment but his parents bring him to church each Sunday. He is relatively calm compared to Michael and is able to sit through the service, but he certainly has his challenges too!
Our church has done many things right in creating a safe and accommodating place for children, including a Plan to Protect® policy, offering to provide workers and they have even offered seminars on children with disabilities.
Outside of the children’s programming, though, I know of nothing specifically in place for adults with disabilities except general acceptance.