Is your Church Autism Friendly?
The other day, a co-special parent posted this scenario that happened at a Catholic church near my son’s previous school. They were there for a seminar in preparation for the kids confirmation.
When I read it, my tears automatically fell down. I pitied the innocent boy that he had to experience that kind of reaction which made him feel unwelcome from a person of the church of all persons.
There were a lot of things that entered my mind after reading it. I’m glad that there was no share button on the same day I read it or else I might reacted differently and not as critical like now.
Some of the questions I have were: was the catechist informed that there’s an intellectually challenged kid included in the crowd? did the school informed the church about it? did the school oriented the kids on what behavior needs to be expected from them if they are there already? did the parent of the kid involved orient their child on what is expected from him also? Does the catechist really knows how to handle kids that are intellectually challenged or she just said that as an escape or alibi? Where was the parent or shadow teacher when that happened? I also asked myself if I did my part to increase awareness and understanding about Autism?
I admit I haven’t posted about Autism here for a long time because there are thoughts and scenarios that’s hard for me to explain in writing. Forgive me for having limited vocabulary which hinders me to tell a technical story. But this time, I know a lot of parents especially the new ones need help and support from their co-special parent and I know I failed them for not sharing our experiences. Let me make up with it by trying to post on how my family is handling it once in a while.
Going back to the issue, I don’t like how the catechist reacted when the kid laughed or talked in a loud voice. Sometimes kids that are intellectually challenged can’t control their emotions. My son for example, I call his attention because he would sometimes show a happy face when the situation is not laughable at all. I just tell him that maybe he’s thinking of other things and not really paying attention on what’s happening and he agrees and then he tries to conform.
The catechist also told the mom (of the other kid) to just bring the child outside because he might not understand any of the information that she’s discussing and just go back when he’s ready. First of all, if the challenged child is a disturbance, perhaps we could take a break and assess the situation. We could ask the shadow to return and guide the child to listen and focus. She used the word that the child is not picking up the information, how sure are you with that?
Regarding Isolation, what would you feel if that was your kid? Do you like him to feel unwelcome and alone? We are advocating inclusion and we the special parents are doing our best to help our kids fit in the normal world. We would appreciate if you could reach out and help us with it.
I would suggest that to avoid this kind of scenario again, the organization (in this case the school) should ALWAYS inform the people of the place they are going to about their student’s case. Doing this before hand will give the institution an idea on the kids they will interact with. If the institution can’t handle kids with special needs, find other options to achieve the goal. Maybe we can ask the help of the therapist to handle the kid.
For the institution, the church or catechist in particular, if you have been informed about it, PLEASE do some research first about the case so that you’ll know what to do. Perhaps you can make your seminar kid friendly. You should remember that you are interacting with kids and not adults. Even typical kids will not understand what you are saying if you will use hard to understand words like “malaswa”. Most of the kids (mentally challenged and even typical kids) are visual learners, I advice that you create a visual presentation to make the seminar more interesting.
Also, even though you know about Autism or any intellectual disability, take note that not everyone is the same. As Stephen Shore said, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” Do not compare!
For the parent, always orient the child on what he/she will experience and go through. Doing this will somehow help him to understand what’s going on, why is he/she there, and what are the behaviors expected from him.
For the community, PLEASE be more compassionate and understanding. The church is not only for people who know how to keep quiet (sometimes even sleep). These kids might have behavior outburst for unexpected circumstances, but it’s not because they want to but because it’s a sensory issue that they are dealing with everyday.
Let us accept each other’s differences and let’s do something to MEET HALF WAY!