For our family, going to church is an important aspect in our lives. Many parents understand how difficult it can be to find the right church for their kids, especially with ones that do not offer Sunday School or youth programs during services. Does Church and Autism mix though? This was our challenge. This battle for us was constant, as we wanted to attend, but didn’t want to ruin the experience for others. This cat and mouse game was everlasting, until it wasn’t.
For us, Carter was a special case. Autism is a widely known aspect for kids, and many organizations prepare, or at least attempt, for such a child. With his VP Shunt though, this made it a bit scarier for us early on. What if he fell, bumped his head, or just looked different to the others kids? His shunt is an adult shunt that will stay in his head for the rest of his life, so as a child it looked quite big on the side of his head. This for the early on years was a scary reminder of how fragile their little heads can be. Of course nowadays, we understand that he can do so much more than we anticipated, and has been cleared by the doc to even play sports. It took us a while to trust others with the care of our children, both of them, with the fear of what could happen. We didn’t want to leave him with people we didn’t know, or let them assume the risk of something they didn’t quite understand.
Finally, after multiple attempts with large and small churches, we found one in Richlands NC that we could attend. We had plenty of friends there, and they absolutely had no concerns over Carter or what he said or did during service. At Richlands UPC they were very friendly, and loved Carter and Kinley very much. If Carter got a little loud sitting in church, Pastor Matthew Drake took on the challenge and got a little louder too. We even got involved and helped our with their spaghetti plate dinners and compared jeeps. Until we got orders!
“WE ARE GOING WHERE?”
Once we found out we had orders to Norfolk VA, the process had to start all over again. We were leaving the church where we felt like family, and didn’t know if we wanted to wait another three years and hope we came back to NC. Once again though, after trial and error and talking to friends as the therapy office, we found another great church to attend. This time, Community Church is an extremely Autism friendly community that has a great system in place to assist families and their children. Carter even has his own “Church Buddy” who meets us every Sunday and stays with Carter in the Community kids area and park during services. As long as we have our nametag and he has his (this is a good thing, security should be important) then we have no issues with drop off and pick up. Not too mention with his Church Buddy, we have a friend that we can write to and ask questions whenever we need.
Church is an important factor in our life, and as you can see from our experience, it doesn’t have to be a huge challenge to attend if that’s what you want. We didn’t feel watching services on the television was right for us, and felt the need to attend a service and connect. It took some research, some asking questions from us to others, and taking a chance and seeing how it worked out, but in the end it was all worth it. Most of the time, if a church doesn’t like having a child with autism around due to interruptions or making others uncomfortable, then that isn’t the church for us anyway.
Comment below your thoughts, or if you have tips for others trying to find the right mix of church and autism