1. Parenting

Readers Respond: What Would You Say to People at Church About Your Child?

Responses: 15


Churches are often not as accepting of children with special needs as their parents would hope. What would you say to the people who glare at your misbehaving child, the Sunday School teacher who won't include your child, the church administrators who can't promise acceptance?

Pauls words to the Church in Corinth

Many Christians use and sometimes over use the "One Body" references that Paul talked about to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) Buried in that text are these words..."On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensible, and the parts we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unrepresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatement." (1Corinthians 12:22-24). I am grateful for our church body who has embraced those with disabilities and special needs. The churches who shun these individuals are missing out on how indispensable they really are. They can be a true example of unconditional love and what worshiping with no reservation or shame of what others may think of them. Read more about our journey of raising a special needs child/sibling with CHARGE Syndrome at lessonsfrommatthew.com

Meltdown at Church

How I've coped with church is to have a carer attend with me so that when my child goes to sunday school she has support. When she was younger she fitted in well in the younger class 2 - 4 year olds. All was going well for a while when we had one particular carer who suggested we try the bigger class (5 - 11yrs). Unfortuneatly, this carer had to leave as she was doing a course or something. So I now have a new carer and it is not working at all. My daughter is having tantrums in the sunday school and rolling on the floor crying. It's mainly testing the boundaries and attention seeking but the new carer seems to not be able to get her back on task. I don't know whether to stop going or change carers. I think I need to do some "time out" and think of what to do but I'm really stressed about it and now don't look forward to church.

Christians, REALLY?

Our parish has ALWAYS been completely understanding and accommodated our families needs. We can't be inside of the church with Lucas! He can't feel confined or else he just completely loses it! For our comfort they put cushion chairs in the hallway of the church and put speakers through the hallway, so that we can hear the mass going on and don't miss any of it. This was my choice, I wasn't asked to, but they made it possible, so that if "I" want to swoop Lucas out of the church because of a level 10 meltdown, I could, for MY comfort!! In our experience it's not the priests, deacons, etc. It's the people, attending mass, who say that they are Christians who have the issues and make my life miserable going to church!! I have had women walk right pass me, as if I couldn't hear, and say, "OMG! Why does she have to bring that horrible kid here every week? I'm sure this is going to be a great mass now that he's here!!!" These are grown women who call themselves Christians, saying this about a 3 year old?!! You're a Christian? Really? Lucas has issues with the noise and lights of the Church so when we walk up to receive communion, it's literally an all out brawl! There are weeks that I'm trying to carry a child who looks like a fish flapping out of water! I got tired of the stares so I created a button that I placed on him for all to see while we were walking up that said "PLEASE STOP SHAKING YOUR HEAD & MAKING MEAN FACES AT ME! I'M NOT BAD, I HAVE Sensory Processing Disorder!" I only had to put it on him 2-3 weeks and I have had not ONE person, give those looks at him again! I still use it when we go out in public to stop any negative comments before they start! I don't have an answer, I can only say what has seemed to work a little for us.

We all have quirks!

My 23-year-old daughter has been lucky enough to be active in two churches for her entire life. Each one served her, and accepted her service, in different ways, including Sunday school programs, confirmation, Bible School, and youth group. Now she is part of "after high school" groups, and has an active prayer life in worship service. She's learned so much from watching, listening, and doing, and while people have wondered how to make places for her, at least they have tried, and usually succeeded. Her prayers during community prayer time are eagerly awaited each Sunday. There were times when I wanted to quit going because someone was not accepting, but we just kept on showing up, and she has grown in faith and understanding because we did. We have been blessed.
—Guest Liesl's Mom

Church doesn't want us there

Ever since my now 11 yr old daughter (who has high functioning autism) began exhibiting more pronounced behavior issues a few years ago, I have felt more and more alone. People treat me as if I am the problem. They say they will accommodate my child, then say they don't know what to do for her. Yesterday they told me that I needed counseling due to the fact that I get upset too easily. They said until I have 20 counseling sessions I am not welcome at church. It "isn't healthy" for the church for me to attend. I will accept the counseling (I can use it), but I will not return to that church. I need church every week. Taking 5-6 months off to get "better" will not be helpful to my spiritual/emotional well being. My daughter and I will begin looking for a more accepting congregation this weekend.
—Guest dodiemom

For the best? Really?

My son's church school was great until he reached 4th grade when suddenly things changed. Even though the director knew my son couldn't read or write, she took great offense that he scribbled his answers on a written test. So I offered an easy solution that she readily accepted: give me the tests ahead of time & I would keep him home, modify the test & give it to him myself. How hard was that? Very hard apparently. I walked in one day to see my son looking sadly at a test he didn't understand. Worse yet, I found out the teacher had gone through the test w/the class & gone over all the answers before giving it. Not helpful for my kid who still couldn't read or write. I told the director what happened and said I was hesitant to send him the next year since there would be more tests. Her response? "I think that's for the best." We haven't been back to that or any church except for weddings, baptisms and funerals.

Thank you for loving him

My 16 year-old son with autism entered a Talent Show at his public high school to sing Elton John's "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" One of the kids in the youth group came just to hear him, and it's not even her high school. The youth pastor came and brought another teen with him. The youth pastor then asked the youth choir director if she could find a place on her program at an upcoming fundraiser for Daniel to sing his song. She said, "That's what we're all about!" As far as I know, my boy is the only soloist on the agenda. AND our senior pastor asked the congregation at all 4 services this past weeked to come to the fundraiser to hear Daniel sing. Wow.

The spectrum of disabilities is an issue

People in or out of church react to a child/teen/adult with a disability according to their comfort level. Based on years of experience, it's not difficult taking a physically handicapped child places. It gets harder to take a mentally challenged child places as they age. It is extremely difficult to take any child over age 2 or so anywhere when they have emotional disturbances. But I have found church members MOST judgemental when your child has mental health issues... too many tend to judge the parent lacking, or assume spirituality is deficient, or sin is involved, or ? Just as a child/teen/adult can be a Christian and have a defective pancreas and thus HAVE to have daily insulin to survive life on earth.... so too can a Christian have a God-allowed brain chemical imbalance, for which there are no easy "controls", let alone "fixes" yet in most cases. I long for the day mental illnesses are as accepted and help offered as for the more "acceptable" illnesses and disabilities.

One Sunday at a time

I too use to sit in the back of the church with my children hoping and praying that this Sunday would be a good one. Many years went by before we could sit through the whole mass. When I finally realized that my child and the people in the church were not the problem, I was. You have to accommodate your child every where you go, even at church. I now go to mass when it is less crowded and I sit in the crying room with a whole bench to ourselves. To my surprise, my child is the quietest one there. He takes quite toys to play with and the time seem to simply fly by. Every now and again I get a glare because my son is lying across the church bench or on the floor. However, he is still the quietest one there. Therefore, I turn to those people and say” Peace be with you”, with a smile on my face. I now am also at peace with myself and my child. THANK GOD! Where there is a will, there is a way.
—Guest Francis

only positive things

I was so lucky when I was the sole carer for Joe, my grandson, who sadly died last year aged 9. I took him to Mass first when he was 10 days old 4 months before his 1st seizure. I then moved closer to my daughter to care for Joe & the parish were wonderful. Joe was accepted by everyone & became the "meeter & greeter" as everyone had to walk past him as we sat at the back. We were lucky enough to go on 2 pilgrimages to Lourdes where disability is king. We paid not a penny & everyone couldn't do enough for us. Joe took up the offertory on the 2nd day & everyone (over 500) was in tears. I had the advantage of working in the special needs field so I had more confidence but we had no problems at all with anyone in the Catholic community. Unfortunately due to the breakdown of my relationship with his parents Joe was stopped from going to church so he was unable to make his communion & then he was given a protestant funeral. Joe loved his religion it was pert of him and he is very much missed at Mass. ... A follow-up: With regard to Joe I feel that we were very lucky to be in the right parish as just down the road there is a home for adults with learning disabilities, mostly Down syndrome. They have been there since they were children & have always gone to church so in a way they "paved the way" for Joe as people were used to seeing children & adults who were a bit different. They also were very accepting of Joe and would even tell me when he was having a seizure. When Joe died I wasn't sure how to tell them but Kate solved the problem by coming up to my husband & saying "how's Joe," when he said he had died she then said "Don't worry he is in Heaven now you ask Steve (our Deacon) & he'll tell you about it." Such faith & from someone who society rejects as not being worth anything. I wish I had a faith as strong as hers.


My church loves my kids. They accept and want both of them to participate in all activities. One has Down syndrome and one is "typical". They are very accepting and adaptable to meet her needs.
—Guest Zena

church and children

I would challenge your church by asking you to look around and see how many children with special needs that you have in your congregation. If you see very few, then your church culture/organization/environment is not welcoming to families who have children with special needs. It is estimated that 1 in 10 school aged children have a diagnosable mental health disorder. That translates to a whole lot of kids that will look quirky in the pews!
—Guest debfjeld

I really get that

I don't go to church but i respect people's belives, but i can not stand when they come up to me and my son, with their eyes watery and say to me: i will pray for your son, god help you!!!! It seriously ticks me of, big time!!!!!!!!!!!!
—Guest natacha

Thanks for the Pity, But No Thanks

Dear Lady Who Clasped My Hand and Sadly Said, "God Bless You" -- Ma'am, I know you meant well. Your sympathetic looks were certainly better than the glares my son's behavior sometimes draws ... and yet, they left me feeling just as defensive. Certainly, his behavior was not what you'd expect from an 18-year-old -- you probably observed his finger-sucking, his playing with keys, his audible questions to me, his inability to hide his boredom … and yes, his giving me noogies while we were all standing up for the baptism. You probably saw that and drew some conclusions about the hardness of my life. What you missed is the fact that, overall, over a very long vigil Mass, he was pretty good. He sat pretty quietly. He did this after enduring a long family dinner at a restaurant. The days when he could not tolerate any such volume of stress are not that long ago. I am so proud of him. So your assuming, based on one long stress-filled viewing, that he is a burden and I am deserving of pity offends me deeply. Judgment and pity are of a piece -- they both allow you to absolve yourself of any need to engage with my child. Why is it so hard for Christians to reach out in love and respect to kids with disabilities, with the warmth and fellowship with which we are called to receive each other? Where's the grace? Don't pity me. Welcome my son. Celebrate him. Embrace him as a child of God. That's hugely more useful to me than your sympathy.

church is for ALL children

Mark 10:14 reads, Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me." In your heart, please remember most people are unfamiliar with a child with disabilities. Take the time to understand their discomfort, reassure them that is totally natural and then try to simply explain the child's condition. Start with one person then share your story as more become interested. It can make all the difference in their lives and yours.
—Guest edna

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