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Let's talk about this while I kill time waiting to go to the psych to hear another report, sigh. How is it going with church? Does your church do anything special? I've been collecting some articles and realizing there are things that could help us, but I'm kind of sad because I'm not sure what church would have them or be able to make them happen.

 

THINKING PERSON'S GUIDE TO AUTISM: Church With the Special Needs Child  suggests the standard "If we're doing our jobs right, you're ds will always feel at home here."

 

7 Tips for Welcoming and Teaching Children with Autism encourages the buddy system and previews. I *didn't* preview with the last thing we tried, and we really screwed up. If we HAD previewed, we would have realized he wasn't going to be placed in the correct class developmentally. That one exposure in the wrong placement turned him off.

 

Ways to Include Your ASD Child When You Head to Church - Autism Parenting Magazine another article encouraging buddies, but this article (written by an OT) also suggests having a safe room. Another thing we don't have. She suggests taking weighted animals or lap pads, which is actually really brilliant. 

 

Autism and The Church - The Thinking Moms' Revolution says it's important for our kids to be out there, so the church is faced with the need to help rather than being able to ignore it. I love their church's "family night" with once a month where everyone can come and be real, lol.

 

What Taking a Child With Autism to Church Feels Like - Sheri Dacon talks about the snubbing of people who deny disabilities and say/imply it's just your parenting. Sigh.

 

The Autism-Friendly Church | CT Pastors  Apparently Joni and Friends has resources for churches. Also encourages 1:1 assignments.

 

Autism and the Church | speaking4sam Not as eloquent, but interesting points about whether the church is picking who is important, too worried about noise and propriety. Also has ideas on how to memorize verses visually. Has more ideas I hadn't seen, like using a visual timer. Hmm.

 

10 ways to make your church autism-friendly this is an article by Mennonites on things they're doing. I had no clue they were so progressive. Some larger churches are doing separate SS classes for autism, etc. I was pretty amazed. Like even the small church we go to has enough kids with disabilities that they could have a separate SS class, across ages, that would be a better fit (smaller, more predictable, no changes from year to year). I don't know that all people would want that, but at this point I would jump. When your dc won't go to SS because the teachers literally think that all 3rd graders ought to listen to a lecture and take notes (I kid you not), that's just really hard to work with. They also mention churches with autism support groups. I haven't heard of one in our area, but I haven't asked around enough.

 

Autism & Worship - I Love ABA!  Some ABA-ish ideas I hadn't thought of, like pairing church with a favored parent. Says to hire a buddy and bring them in from the community. Preferred motivators, breaking rules/norms (favorite clothes, etc.).

 

Anything brilliant working for you? Or does your dc go quietly in? I changed churches, trying to make it easier for me to go (long story), but it has been a struggle. The church has changed classes on him, without giving me a heads-up. They just have NO CLUE about disabilities and never even just ASK. They really have NO clue. The one thing this church does for me that actually is very helpful is giving me the music list ahead of time. I pre-teach him the music, so it's not so out of the blue. He can't read and learn on the fly so fast in the service, but I can play it for him ahead slowly, teach him the structure of the music, help him know the words, explain the word pictures, etc, and he'll hum along. It's kinda different, but it works for him.

 

Maybe I could look up the Joni and Friends links. There are just things that seem SO OBVIOUS about autism to me and the church is SO OBLIVIOUS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting snacks at church goes a really, really long way for my son. He is doing better right now than he has even recently. Right now he sits with me and he will try to follow along a little bit. He read the lyrics for a few words of “Shine, Jesus, Shine†this week which was very special for him.

 

Then he is going to Sunday School. A nice older woman sits with him and does coloring pages with him, and he gets cookies, and then after Sunday School we go upstairs and he gets a Kapri Sun and another cookie or sweet bread.

 

At the school here they like coloring and he has gotten a lot better with coloring, and he likes coloring and social stuff around coloring (talking about colors or what you have colored). It’s very structured but it also transfers really well because a lot of places are easily set up for kids who can color and talk with a nice woman.

 

This is all major progress for him and coming at age 9. For years we didn’t go, I left him home with my husband, and then for several years I had an aide go with us (paid by insurance) and had accommodations made by church.

 

I was on the Board of Christian Education at our old church (before we moved) and had a lot of times where they wanted to accommodate and were very willing, but my son’s needs were just so high it was like he needed someone with specific in-depth training, and not just a willing and positive attitude and nice people willing to help.

 

Now he’s at a place where a nice and well-meaning person can do well with him.

 

The other thing is my son is obviously delayed in some ways. He still holds my hand and says “Mommy, mommy, I want to sit by you,†and it isn’t bad but it is obvious he isn’t a typical 9-year-old boy, so here I talked to the teacher and she just got her friend from choir to come and sit with my son.

 

Also he can go with his sister, which is huge.

 

Also this is a church with very few kids, and they like kids and want kids to come! It goes a long way. There isn’t a lot of programs or anything, but there’s a lot of attention for my kids and a lot of acceptance.

 

Edit: really the Sunday School teacher reached out to me about Eli coming, which went a long way and meant a lot to me.

Edited by Lecka

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It was a little awkward in some ways at my old church, to have the private aide come. It worked out though, she would bring her two daughters a lot of the time and she was nice and made a good impression on people.

 

But there was feeling like an aide shouldn’t be necessary, that a volunteer from within the church should be sufficient. It made people feel bad because they didn’t want it to be like — I had to bring someone in because nobody in church would do it.

 

But it was something where..... it’s weird to explain, but a few people would volunteer to work with him because they thought “I’m good with kids†and “he’s just not being given a chance†and that “oh in these modern times the kids are getting labeled too much†and things like that. But at a certain point a few people (very nice people!) who had thoughts like that had been in and seen “okay I’ve tried and I realize there is some greater need for training here.â€

 

That all happened over a period of time and really more around the time he was getting diagnosed.

 

Some people just had to see for themselves, though.

 

But this was at a very flexible church, it was just people who had no experience with autism and had impressions like it was just labeling or something. I don’t even really know.

 

But I got a lot of comments after the aide started coming, that people were glad to see it going well, and it would be people who had been uncomfortable. But then it went well with the aide coming for 2-3 years up until we moved.

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My 14yo son isn't diagnosed as autistic, but rather "intellectually disabled with autistic tendencies".

 

Anyway, we go to a teeny, tiny country church right now where everyone is super patient with him. He rocks during the singing (literally) and hand flaps when excited, etc. During the Sunday school class, his teacher knows which crafts work for him, which don't, etc. They know not to push too hard, etc. They've been super.

 

But during the service, I have found that giving him his graphic bible to look at keeps him engaged and quiet. He is only allowed to have it during the church service. At home, we use another type that is more wordy and few pictures. This is the one we got for him to read at church: https://www.christianbook.com/the-action-bible/9780781444996/pd/444996?dv=%7Bdevice%7D&en=google&event=SHOP&kw=childrens-bibles-0-20%7C444996&p=1179710&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI7vOpm-qo2QIVg7XACh11rw46EAQYASABEgJxbfD_BwE

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This sounds like how my son may be when he is older. It is nice to hear about a teen doing well :) I don’t feel like I know as much about the older age groups.

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My 12 year old is autistic and we've had a mostly good experience with our church.  He's on the mild end of the spectrum and many people don't realize he's autistic until they try to have a conversation with him.  We've just been up front with the pastors and anyone working closely with him.  For his confirmation classes, he's not expected to talk if he doesn't want to. We're fortunate to belong to a very friendly and welcoming church - they try to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome there. It's a fairly small church too, with small Sunday School class sizes so that helps as well.

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If your church has a youth director, children's director, or youth pastor, set up a meeting with them. IF you belong to a smaller church, meet with your head pastor. Talk to them about your child and what kinds of accommodations would help them in worship and in Sunday School.

 

I am a youth pastor in a mid-size mainline church and I minister to multiple youth with special needs. Some of the accommodations we have made in our congregation:

  • We allow a youth to walk freely in and out of the Sunday School classroom, with his boundaries clearly explained. He can be in the hallway outside the classroom, or in the coffee hour space, or in the classroom and can get up when he needs a break from the stimulation. The youth group understands that he might suddenly jump up and leave and they are all great about it.
  • We educate the congregation that the worship space is for everyone. Sometimes a child, youth, or adult might run to the altar, wear earphones, or speak out of turn. Get your pastor to teach people by his or her actions of love and welcome.
  • We have taken all sugar and junk food out of youth ministry to support a youth with an eating disorder.
  • We welcome fidgeting!
  • We welcome one-on-one support for students when needed. 

There are many, many accommodations that congregations can make. Let your pastor or youth pastor know what you need! Help them work with your family and you will benefit those that come after you.

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We've finally settled on just going to worship service as a family. Ds works on a children's bulletin during the sermon. He starts to get antsy through communion each week and I just take him out and walk or sit in the car with him if necessary. He's improved greatly this year in getting through the service.

 

It's not ideal to miss out on Sunday school and Bible studies; but it works for now. We do try to attend family events that don't require ds to attend a separate class.

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Hey, talk to me about this children's bulletin. Is that like the sunday school take home paper? He never paid attention to the papers before, but he might now, hmmm... Or I could find a company with some papers like that and train him on them. That could be interesting.

Edited by PeterPan

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Order ABC 2nd Edition  I guess if you're not YE, you won't like this. Anyways, AIG has colorful take-home pages for their SS curriculum that I think could work. They're colorful and grade leveled. They're pretty straightforward. The RBP stuff my current church uses is KJV (yuck, not something he can understand) and is super busy and abstract, with tons on the page and just sort of out there. He wouldn't understand it. But the AIG stuff is more straightforward. I could see him actually doing this successfully. Like I could get him multiple levels, so he could do the PreK-1 take home pages AND the gr2/3. He'd probably also enjoy the J&J stories. It could actually really work, if I somehow convinced him that doing worksheets in church was fun, lol. But it's a lot like stuff we do at home, so it could work. 

 

I ought to figure out the times more precisely and write out the routine. I think he's partly stressed trying to figure out when it will end. I'm usually so exhausted I don't notice, oops. But it probably has a consistent time. Then he could have a schedule and see the plan. He could have a checklist to work through. 

 

I don't know, just thinking out loud. Sometimes my ideas are crazy, lol. But seriously, why not? He's bored stiff and wants to know the plan and that it's not interminable and to be able to engage more. It seems reasonable.

 

I think I'll talk with him about having a plan. Like instead of trying to make him fit them, what if we just said he, what would good for him look like here... Because in some ways he's so smart and amazing and in some ways he's REALLY struggling. The whole thing is a bust, the whole way. But I was looking at it as how do I keep him from climbing the walls, rather than how do I help him have a church experience that IS enlightening or uplifting or thought-provoking... I could put some more things on the table as options, like moving to a different location, sitting in the back, maybe letting him sit a totally different way (in a floor area, able to move and rearrange, in a corner, not trapped in a pew). We could just totally redefine it.

 

That's why I felt like I needed the evals. I just felt like if the level 1 support was right, this level of difficulty is absurd. I don't know. I'm just saying he really struggles. And I think someone can have a lot of spiritual thoughts and interest and faith going on and be in another location with the service piped in or be in motion or be doing something really different. That would be ok.

Edited by PeterPan

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Hey, talk to me about this children's bulletin. Is that like the sunday school take home paper? He never paid attention to the papers before, but he might now, hmmm... Or I could find a company with some papers like that and train him on them. That could be interesting.

It's just a bulletin that our church (Lutheran Missouri Synod) provides; though I know other denominations offer similar. Here's the one our church uses: https://www.cph.org/p-14852-childrens-lutheran-download-qtr-1.aspx

 

It basically corresponds with where we are in the Church year and whatever the gospel lesson for the week is. Front page is always a picture to color from the scripture, the inside spread is usually a word search, crossword or similar puzzle related to the lesson and the back is usually a color the dots for a hidden picture or dot to dot type activity. I like that what he's working on is related to what is going on in church.

 

We work at home during the week on prayers, creeds and hymns so that he can follow along better during the service. He now stands and sits at appropriate times, but it has been a work in progress.

 

Also, the church we attended before this was actually very informal, Baptist, praise and worship type without set prayers, Liturgy, etc. We've been in the more formal, liturgical churches for about 9 months now and I've been amazed at how well ds has responded to it. I think the structure and routine is comforting to him and the quieter hymns are definitely easier on him from a sensory perspective. Just thought I'd throw that in there, because it's the opposite of what I would have predicted!

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Wow, that IS interesting. And you're right, this church doesn't put the full plan in the bulletin to let people know what is coming next either. I don't know why they don't do that. So you never know the plan, and you can't check it off. I almost think it's disorganization, that they sometimes change things at the last minute, lol. But seriously, that makes sense. I'll look at those bulletins too. They sound very nice!

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Oh, I absolutely agree that figuring out times and writing up a routine helps a lot. We used a visual schedule for awhile with graphics for prayer, song, offering, sermon, communion etc. I laminated it and he checked off each thing with a dry erase marker as it happened. Now that he's into the routine more he doesn't use it anymore, but it was helpful when we first started at this church.

 

Now he doesn't start getting antsy and asking how much longer until the last 20 minutes or so. Our service averages about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

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At churches I have gone to that don’t have Communion every Sunday, Communion Sundays will be 15-20 minutes longer. They will show on the church calendar what Sundays are Communion Sundays.

 

Baptism Sundays also run much longer. You can usually know that ahead of time, too.

 

Special services like Palm Sunday can be variable on time, too.

 

Regular services often get out at a consistent time unless there is a lot of variation in how long the pastor talks. I have been to a church before where there could be either one or two songs after the sermon, depending on how long the pastor talked. Other churches just run late.

 

If you are going to a church with multiple services then they probably stick to a schedule much more. With multiple services it’s a lot harder to have the service just last an extra 20 minutes for Communion.

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I think for some of that on not showing everything, they are being flexible for the pastor and how long he may speak, and if he is moved by the Spirit during the sermon. That’s how the church was I went to that might have 1, 2, or 0 songs after the sermon.

 

But at a lot of churches the pastor keeps to a more standard time for the sermon and is probably not going to deviate a huge amount from the prepared sermon, most of the time, though still sometimes.

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I think that is as close to a kids' bulletin you are probably going to get at a non-liturgical church.

 

Order ABC 2nd Edition  I guess if you're not YE, you won't like this. Anyways, AIG has colorful take-home pages for their SS curriculum that I think could work. They're colorful and grade leveled. They're pretty straightforward. The RBP stuff my current church uses is KJV (yuck, not something he can understand) and is super busy and abstract, with tons on the page and just sort of out there. He wouldn't understand it. But the AIG stuff is more straightforward. I could see him actually doing this successfully. Like I could get him multiple levels, so he could do the PreK-1 take home pages AND the gr2/3. He'd probably also enjoy the J&J stories. It could actually really work, if I somehow convinced him that doing worksheets in church was fun, lol. But it's a lot like stuff we do at home, so it could work. 

 

This site is a really nice one (and links to some other good sites), and you might tinker around there looking for some free stuff first. It would be fairly finite, but if you find acceptable materials, then you can spend money on something down the road. https://ministry-to-children.com/sequence-bible-stories/

 

 

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I learned about a resource today called Irresistible Church from Joni and Friends. There is a free website with resources (you have to register), and a series of books that are free for Kindle on Amazon's site.

 

The series helps churches support families and individuals with disabilities. Some of the resources are simple, like questionnaires to help a church identify needs and checklists to assess if your building is accessible. Others guide a church through the process of creating various kinds of support groups, buddy ministries, overall ministries, disability-friendly worship services, etc.

 

http://www.joniandfriends.org/church-relations/starter_kit_signup/

http://www.joniandfriends.org/blog/irresistible-church-book-series/

 

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