We have been contemplating for over a year now whether to stay at our current church. We really have limited options where we live. We have tried to participate with our current church as best as we can, but it just isn’t working. We can’t do many of the things that they do because of diet restrictions or sensory issues, I am not even going into the social anxiety. We have gone to some events but then it takes at least three days for all of us to be back to our “normal”. No one is doing anything wrong and we feel welcomed but we don’t fit.
I have been observing changes in our kids for the past several months.
They no longer want to go. At first it was good for them and they liked it. I have been confused by their behavior when they are in class, when we leave, and by them not wanting to go as often as they used to. A couple of weeks ago I was in children’s class, Ariel and Joshua did not want to go, Daniel did and went with me. He was trying so hard to participate and play with kids. However, we are in a movie theater, the elementary students are on the next level in the same theater and it is LOUD! He got past the toys all dumped out on the floor in piles, the noise, the other kids, the TV on, the elementary kids playing X-Box and went to go sing songs. When the video came on he went into panic and asked “Why is it that songs?”
They changed the DVD that they had been using for the past six months.
They had seemed to have lost it, Daniel couldn’t stay, it was the last straw. Even though he knew those songs they were not the ones that I was playing in the car on the way there, they were not the ones that they have been using every week for the past um…forever in his mind and he was done. I took him out in the hallway and asked him if he could go back in after the songs, he said “No, I can’t. It’s too loud.” My mom took him to her house until I was finished with class. After that I decided to wait for the best opportunity to ask Ariel and Joshua why they did not want to go to church anymore. I discovered from Ariel that all of the toys dumped out makes her dizzy. There are certain toys that are too loud that make her stomach hurt. All of the kids talking at once makes her stomach hurt and her head hurt.
She wants to play with the other kids but she can’t because now she gets a stomach ache even before we go.
Joshua agreed with everything she said and they added that the music is too loud so when they get home they are overloaded and act all wild. It’s true they do act all wild and I didn’t really know why. I thought it was those things but I kept thinking in the back of my mind the more exposure they have the better it will get. This is not the case for my guys, they seem to be getting anxiety about all the sensory issues they will have before even going. I still was thinking that maybe if they just kept going that it will all be better but today I read this Including Persons with Autism in the Life of Church . As I read the section “Develop a User-Friendly Classroom”, I realized that everything they have mentioned to do, is how we have our home set up and it is the exact opposite at church. Everything they suggest our church does the opposite. It is not their fault, being limited in time and space causes the situation to be enhanced.
A movie theater really isn’t the best option for those on the spectrum anyway.
It worked in the beginning, it was actually great. I couldn’t figure out why we were starting to have problems but now I get it. Before they had limited toys, clutter, kids and noise. Now that the church has grown, the piles of toys have grown, the number of children have grown, the different teachers have grown, the sound level has increased and it has become a sensory nightmare. I should know this because every time I serve in there, even though I enjoy it, I am unable to function when I get home. I have to just sit and watch TV because I can’t really do anything else. It takes everything I have to make lunch and dinner so the kids and I have to make it a movie day. If they go with me than they are usually doing their own stim.
Now we are left with having to make a decision.
I have thought about bringing them after music time, when all of the toys are cleaned up and they do the story and craft but I am not sure it will work. They are all pretty set on the script and if they are not there for the beginning then that could turn into another whole anxiety issue. I don’t know, I am torn. Part of me feels like we have to keep going, part of me knows that it is just not going to work, part of me thinks it really doesn’t matter either way because we haven’t really connected to people and at this point in time we are not going to, but then I feel guilty.
None of the kids will wear ear plugs or head phones.
We have tried the weighted vest in class, I’ve tried a sensory diet in the morning before going, going over the schedule, speaking to the children’s pastor, sending a detailed email about his behaviors to help him if he is having problems. I didn’t realize that Ariel and Joshua were being affected just as much. The teachers are not able to help Daniel during class in that short of time, how can they help our other two kids?
I am just feeling quite discouraged and frustrated, at this point I don’t know what is the best thing to do.