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dc and religious services

(47 Posts)
mariagoretti Mon 27-Dec-10 22:24:34

My ds (7, adhd/?asd) has had increasing trouble coping, despite being taken every week for his whole life. He becomes anxious beforehand and during, which sparks of the echolalia, constant chatter and wriggling. I get embarrassed, try the usual measures, which work for a few minutes. He then loses it (hooting, picking on his sister, kicking me) and I know a full-on meltdown is starting. I get stressed and over-react, which obviously makes things a whole lot worse. We end up hiding in the porch or with me dragging the dc back to the car, saying horrible things to them blush.

I think a lot of it is sensory, combined with his age and size which now prevent the anti-toddler tactics I used to use. The church is connected with his school, which makes it worse, as everyone then sees the difficulties he works so hard to hide in class. He has a bag of tricks, we sit in a quiet(ish) side pew, he gets a biscuit and drink after. I'm at a loss what else to do, so I said on Christmas eve, "We just aren't going any more". I'm half heartbroken and half relieved. Suggestions?

elliejjtiny Mon 27-Dec-10 22:40:49

You should come to our church, I think about 50% of the congregation have disabilities. Both elders have AS plus several others. If the notices don't get read out on time there is trouble, hymn numbers are given out in sign language and there are more adults than children in the sunday school.

We are lucky in that we have PIL in the pew behind us so they can help but on the occasions when they've not been here and DH is preaching I really struggle so I know how hard it is. DS1 usually does a jigsaw (his obsession) and I bribe DS2 with food usually.

LunarRose Mon 27-Dec-10 22:45:27

DS (only 3) seems to get more echolalia random noisy ticks in situation where you need him to be quiet. BUt also the more wound up you get about it the more he picks up on your tension the more wierdness seems to come through. (e.g. repeateedly telling my mum to Shut up at my daughters nativity blush I've found cuddling him tightly and stroking his stomach seems to help but only after doing it for about 5-10 mins. I don't know if I'd have the strength do this on a 7 year old.

What about waiting for the first hymn and then going in? is there some kind of anteroom/vestibule/ balcony that you could sit in so you could both still hear the service but he would have some space to settle? if you did that for a while you might find he gets used to it wants to come in of his own accord (mine tends to enjoys singing and light...eventully!!).

Only at the start of the journey so I'm sure more knowledgable people than me can give more ideas.

hideyhideynamechange Mon 27-Dec-10 22:47:24

Talk to the minister? Could someone from the church consider setting up a specialist Sunday school group, so that you can still go to the mainstream service if you would like to, while something that your ds might actually enjoy, with a religious basis, is provided? I guess you might have to be the person who sets it up though, which could be the last thing you need!

Could you have a think and consider an ideal service from your ds's point of view - I'm not an expert in any way so don't know what that would be - maybe at your house, more sensorily appropriate, using materials that are more meaningful for him? If God loves him as he is, is there a way of providing for his religious needs as you see them in a way that gives him a chance to actually experience that love?

Sorry that paragraph could sound quite didactic and cross? Hope you see it as constructive - I feel very exasperated with our local church at the moment and I'm afraid that's coming through here.

ShoshanaBlue Tue 28-Dec-10 03:44:25

I left our church when DD was 2. Clearly she has never been able to cope with it (but I am very persistent). I had taken her every week since birth and still she screamed blue murder (except the time she got christened!)

I returned a couple of years later but spending over an hour restraining DD so that she didn't become the local arsonist (she was a bit too fond of those votive candles!), combined with the axing of the children's liturgy (which only lasted about 20 mins anyway, but they didn't seem to mind her screaming so much) due to lack of volunteers meant that we left again.

At this time a nearby parish had a new church building with a 'children's chapel' with toys and soundproof glass. At 4, she learned to cope with this. Almost a year on and she can stay in the children's chapel (though it is really aimed at babies and toddlers) and go out quite happily by herself to the children's liturgy and come back to the toddler room when it's finished. I am hoping that in a few months, she will be able to sit in the main church for some time (with the option of going back to the toddler chapel if she is stressed).

If I were you, I would try a different parish. For us, it does mean a lot of travelling though - which means we can't always make it
It's a huge worry - I worry she will be expelled from school (or that I will pull her out) and she won't be able to make her First Communion. The Church our school is attached too is a lot more formal than the one we go to and presently I don't think she could cope with that!

I'm also very bitter. I hear a lot about the unborn child and I hear so much positive things about the right to life of the disabled/sick/elderly, but when actually presented with an actual born child or a real disabled person for an hour a week. The Church simply can not cope.

IndigoBell Tue 28-Dec-10 07:00:29

Sounds to me like you're doing the right thing giving it up for a while.

Looking around for a diff church also sounds good - but of course may or may not be practical.

If later you do want to reintroduce church you could try just going for the last 5 or 10 minutes. Then if that works you could build it up from there. Ie going fort the last 15 mins.

It's obviously perfectly ok to not go to church. Or to want to go to church but not be able to. I think you're also going to have to ask yourself some pretty soul searching questions about why you go to church and does it matter to you if you don't.

Goblinchild Tue 28-Dec-10 08:09:45

Can you find time for you to go without dc?
I agree that churches can be incredibly unfriendly to children in general, and SN children in particular.
What do you think your child gets out of it?
My son hated church except the singing. Otherwise it was full of stand upo, sit down, don't stim, be silent, concentrate, kneel, bad boy.
He used to go with his primary school, now he's a teen and it's his choice he hasn't been to a service since. Loves churches, the architecture and the history, pops in to talk to God quite often. Just not with other people around.

JandyMac Tue 28-Dec-10 09:10:15

I have been through all this and know what you mean.
The suggestion of looking for a different Church is the most helpful, but there is a lot to be said for trying to educate the one you are in.
I went on a brilliant day recently called "Enabling Church". There are lots of different charities working towards making Churches more inclusive for people of all disabilities and all ages. It is incredibly sad that the secular world seems to be a lot further ahead in this respect.
Some of the charities involved in the day:
causewayprospects, livability, througtheroof.
Peterborough diocese have a document on their website about making Churches autism friendly, written with the help of a couple who have an autistic child, the husband having also recently been diagnosed with Aspergers. Giving that to your Priest/Vicar might help.

mariagoretti Tue 28-Dec-10 09:19:24

Thank you all very much. As well as all the suggestions, it's nice (in a sad sort of way) to feel that I'm not alone in this. I think I'll try to have a chat with the priest, and (if I'm brave enough!) tackle the senco about having church desensitisation included in his IEP. Funnily enough, he appears to cope when his class goes. But I think that's the typical asd thing about putting up with everything you hate while school and then exploding when you get home.

IndigoBell Tue 28-Dec-10 09:24:59

Maria - school always tell me DS copes with school trips etc, yet when I do the exact same trip with him I find him very stressed.

It is perfectly possible that your DS does not cope with class church visits - but that his teacher doesn't notice him not coping because he's not tearing the place up....

Our radars are much more sensitive to our own children. We notice when they are stressed before anyone else....

Goblinchild Tue 28-Dec-10 09:32:04

'It is perfectly possible that your DS does not cope with class church visits - but that his teacher doesn't notice him not coping because he's not tearing the place up....'

As a teacher who has a son on the spectrum, I'd agree with this. I spot stuff, and when I point out specifics to other teachers, they are surprised that what I see is a stress indicator. Or that sometimes I can magically predict an oncoming meltdown and head it off.
But they are also more aware in the future, because I work in an inclusive school.
We make mistakes, but we learn from them.

pinkorkid Tue 28-Dec-10 11:35:59

Probably not the best person to advise on this as I can no longer persuade my ds 13 (asd & add) to go to church with me. He complained there were too many people and it was too noisy so we tried going to a smaller church with less people. He then protested he didn't know what the point of it all was and none of my arguments convinced him. So reluctantly and sadly (as it's important to me) I've given up and just hope he may be inclined to change his mind when he's older.

I can really sympathise with feeling so self-conscious when dcs' behaviour draws attention. Although I think most people will only feel sympathy and or relief that their child is not the only one acting up, I know from experience there are occasionally insensitive people who make you feel far from welcome because they have no understanding of your dc's disabilty.

So in retrospect what I feel I should have done was to speak to the priest early on about how difficult it was to cope with attending church with ds, point out where some people's attitudes made attendance even harder and ask for his advice.

It might be that attending a quieter service so less sensory issues to deal with or conversely a very noisy children's service where your dc's quirks more likely to blend in would help (if these are available options to you).

Hope you get the support you need from your school and parish.

donkeyderby Tue 28-Dec-10 16:35:41

I have to say firstly that I am not a churchgoer but I was brought up going to church weekly and my family are very religious.

It always appals me that Christians as a whole - including my parents - have so little time for those that Jesus would have taken into his heart and arms. I can't remember the bible saying anything about Jesus being stuck up, exclusive, and banishing those who are in need of compassion.

DS1 and his class were nearly thrown out of a church that they visited because they weren't being quiet (until a lovely lady doing the flowers intervened). What is the Christian religion about if it isn't about the poor, the dispossessed and those on the margins of society?

On a practical note, DS is compelled to be loud if and when he goes to church because the echo is so great - he can't resist, especially in all those quiet, boring bits (i.e., most of it)

Tiggles Tue 28-Dec-10 17:10:17

I tried going to a lively 'modern' church for a while, and gave up when after the service one day one of the ladies asked me if I needed help keeping my children under control hmm referring to the fact that DS1 had just bolted out the church after the other kids in sunday school had been bullying him.
So we ended up at the local Anglican church (attached to the school) which I thought would be a nightmare as the three DSs aren't the quietest. The vicar has turned out to be particularly understanding about the DSs, and the other attendees are so pleased to have children present that they are quite happy when they make a noise. they are now looking at taking a number of pews out so they can have more room to be comfortable! One thing that the vicar was happy to suggest (even before he knew DS1 had AS) was that if I wanted to I could take the kids into the vestry - as it is near the front of the church I would still be able to hear, but wouldn't need to worry about the children being noisy and disturbing other people. Now he knows about DS having AS he is even more accomodating - even found out about DSs special interests so could do an assembly on them in the school.
DS1 is now 8 and finally we have sorted him being (pretty) quiet in church - he sits, with his back to the vicar, and colours pictures of starwars. He hides under the pew when people are singing. He has been known to interrupt the vicar on occasion, as despite the impression he gives out he is listening to what is being said, and he makes it very clear when he doesn't understand certain words etc blush.

hermitmum Tue 28-Dec-10 18:38:43

i would like to go to church but my kids wont let me

signandsingcarols Tue 28-Dec-10 19:12:32

Hi all, can relate to so much of what has been said...

I think maybe there is a place for a mix of the approaches recomended... Finding a place to go that accepts your ds, as he is, and/ or helping the place you to understand what ds needs. We have done both, (the church mother and toddler group altho lovely if you were a yummy mummy wink was awful for ds so we stopped going and found a place that suited him.

but for church in general we have been 'educating' our church about what ds needs, they are very mixed culture/nationality/language group etc, and are really good at physical disability and sensory impairent stuff, but are on a steep learning curve with LD, ASD, Behavioural stuff etc... wink

We ( me and two or three other mums) are planning to offer to do a 'disability audit' to see where the church can 'up its game' as it were... grin

I think it is also important to recognise your own needs in this. I know that my faith is the bedrock of everything I am and I need to recharge my spiritual batteries, so I need time in church where I am not doing ds crowd control, IYSWIM... We had a rota of people who went out to Kid's church with DS as one to one workers, so I didn't have to and now have 'aiming high' funding for a paid worker to do that, (as this is ds's community that he needed to be able to access independant of me.)

PS JandyMac I was at that day too, it was brill, I came back really fired up, (which seminars did you go to?)

PS last week, ds was singing to himself during the prayers and lady infromt, who I did not know, turned round and said, with a big smile, 'what lovely singing' (I hugged her in the interval!) (we are quite a huggy church! grin

andperseand Tue 28-Dec-10 19:52:00

My DS managed his First Communion last year, just (with some helpful alternatives for if he found it too hard on the day), and he really wanted to do it (we are all 'newly' RC in our family apart from DH who is supportive). However, since then he has found it increasingly difficult to attend, I think it is sensory - too many people, hard to sit still, he usually lies on the floor, etc.

I have had to accept that he hardly ever comes with us, once only this year and had to leave when the first hymn started as he was scared by the singing. I find this upsetting but we still talk and read and sometimes pray at home.

Recently I joined the church cleaning rota and he came to help with that before Christmas - they were so lovely with him, allowed him to run all over the place and practice long jumps off the altar steps down the aisle. We even had a 'play' in the confessional followed by a little prayer together. It meant as much to me as if we had been together every single week.

Maybe this way little by little he will be able to come with me, maybe not, but it is a start.

mariagoretti Tue 28-Dec-10 20:45:27

Hello again. I'm astounded at the amount of practical wisdom on this thread; I'm going to go to the library and print it out (our printer died). The suggestions from people who overcame the hurdles are great, and I'm reassured by those couldn't get their dc to cope with attending, but are still managing to pass on their faith.

The Enabling Church day sounds great. I went to something sort of similar which did make a big difference. I'm just struggling to put it into practice, and very sad not to be able to participate in in the same way as other families.

mumslife Tue 28-Dec-10 22:36:04

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troublewithtalk Tue 28-Dec-10 22:56:16

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troublewithtalk Tue 28-Dec-10 22:58:59

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troublewithtalk Tue 28-Dec-10 23:06:11

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mariagoretti Wed 29-Dec-10 09:37:44

Yes mumslife, mine is much more relaxed with Beavers than with me (though the fabulous leaders, different parish, extra ritalin, imminent trip out and distraction of being with his little mates might help!). I'm delighted than sunday school works well for troublewithtalk, and for the others who've had good experiences with it. For my ds, children's liturgy is even worse than the main Mass, I think cos there's an extra transition, even more sensory input and he has to participate rather than zone out.

I do wonder if I'm perpetuating the problem a bit, so I think Indigo's idea of taking a break might help. Trouble is, once you relax a 'rule'....

mumslife Wed 29-Dec-10 09:53:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mumslife Wed 29-Dec-10 09:54:25

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