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And then that happened. Do I even bother?

So, we’ve been at our church for a couple of years now. Most people are aware of Little Man’s issues. They’re kind of hard to miss. They are blessedly accepting and loving, not to mention very supportive. It makes it easier. It doesn’t stop his behaviors but their responses make it comfortable for us,  most of the time. Yesterday was NOT one of those times.

We tend to sit down towards the front. I should probably relegate us to the back row, but you find your “spot” and you stick with it. Our church is growing by leaps and bounds, and there seemed to be a much higher-than-usual number of new people in the service yesterday, some of whom were sitting right behind us. Perfect storm….Little Man does not get his ADHD meds on the weekends and he tends more towards the hyper side of that particular disorder. He had decided he did not want to be at church yesterday, fueling a pure oppositional-defiant disorder response. And he hit the wall on stimulation which brought about hand waving, alternating between fetal position and laying full-out across the chairs, random noises, and frequent shushing. It. Was. Brutal. I wanted so desperately to be able to focus on the message and the worship. He was having none of it. We battled through, but I was mortified, exhausted, drained, and nearly in tears by the end. Welcome to our church, new people. I wanted to apologize to those newbies sitting behind us. He was such a distraction.

I fought with myself all day yesterday about taking him to church. Why do I even bother? I don’t know he gets anything out of it. Half the time, I have to go back and view the online video of the message because I’ve been so distracted during church, I’ve missed the points. Yet I continue to haul him along with us. He has his headphones. He asks me every five minutes what time it is and how much longer we have. He doesn’t like the music. He flops around constantly. He sometimes cries. He will take himself outside if he really needs  break. So why do it? Why put myself and those around us through the whole process? Am I being fair to myself, much less anyone else? It would be easier to just leave him at home.

I have to believe he is hearing everything that’s being said and sung. How do I know this? Because I know that no matter how much it might seem he isn’t paying the least bit of attention, he is taking it all in. It happens at school. It happens at home. He will replay to me conversations I wasn’t even aware he heard. He will spit out facts his teacher would swear he wasn’t engaged in the discussion. So I know he’s getting something. And that means something to me.

I do have an internal argument every Sunday morning, especially after days like yesterday. It was so bad. I’ll likely continue to have those arguments week after week. I wish I knew what we’re doing is best and right, not just for me or for everyone sitting around us, but for him as well. The debate continues.

7 thoughts on “And then that happened. Do I even bother?

  1. Hang in there Mama! I know it’s hard, sometimes it seems impossible. But you’re doing an amazing job and he is taking it all in, even if it doesn’t seem like it!
    Maybe try a visual timer that he can hold? When it goes off, he can have a break?
    Or try a reinforcement board. He can put a token on it for every 5 minutes he sits quietly, when its full he can have a treat, or a break. Or if he fills it all out he gets something after church?
    Let me know if you need any other ideas! And check out my blog for a teacher perspective on Autism!

    • Thank you! Those are great ideas. We”ll have to give them a try. I did try bribery with lunch out following the service. Even with that carrot, I couldn’t entice him to even sit up. Sigh…

      • A lot of times, a delayed reinforcement is hard for them to understand. You can tell him that it will happen after church, but he might not understand it’s going to happen. A token board would help give him an immediate reinforcement, followed by the delayed reinforcement. In the moment, he gets to fill his board, and when it’s done, he gets his prize. Also try using words like “First Church, Then Prize” or “First Sit, Then break” a First/Then system is easier for them because a lot of times they don’t understand time (Might not get how long 5 minutes is)

  2. Hang in there. I do remember those same issues long ago. It does get better. My guy actually loves going to church now. the loud music was unsettling to him but at some point he began to enjoy it. I will admit it took us a while to find one that was a good “fit” being a church with a children’s ministry that “got it” but it was so well worth the time it took. Now, my man teaches me a thing or two about God. It may appear easier not to go, but YOU’LL be at a greater disadvantage if you don’t go. Just my two cents 😉

      • You are probably correct. I remember being SO self-conscious about EVERY little thing or noise only to later learn people weren’t paying us much attention. More people are now affected in some way by autism though family, co-workers and friends and I find that makes people far more compassionate than they were even ten years ago.

  3. Church has been hard for my boys. Michael can’t stand minor key music, so all of Great Lent is torture for him. John gets freaked out by the bells, which ring at the beginning of Liturgy and while we’re saying the Nicene Creed. Michael did enjoy our priest’s sermons, either because of the content or because Michael likes Father’s deep voice. It came down to the same question for us: how much are the boys getting out of attending, vs. the monumental effort of getting them both there and keeping them contained during the 90 minute Liturgy?

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