Today was a monumental day for my family, but most of all for my son.
Today we went to church together.
Today we actually stayed through the entire service.
And today my son was content and happy to be at church with us.
This may not seem like much of an accomplishment to you, but it is a huge step for us. For the past 10 months my husband and I have gotten by with a tag-team approach to Sunday mornings. He went to an early service on his own while I stayed at home with the children. When he returned home, I took my daughter to the later service, but only after Daddy and son had set off for a walk through the village (a necessary distraction). Why did we go to all this trouble? Didn’t we want to take our son to church? It’s a long story, so I’ll spare you the boring details and share just the important bits.
When we first moved into our lovely little village, things were tough for our son (who had yet to be diagnosed with Autism) – everything was new and he was not coping particularly well. We took him to church with us for the first three weeks and it was a nightmare. He collapsed to the floor, whining, crying, pulling at my or my husbands arm, refusing to be comforted or distracted the moment we walked through the door. Nothing worked. We were the new family and even though everyone was so understanding and tried to tell us his acting out didn’t bother them, it bothered us. We didn’t know how to handle his behaviour and we were mortified at disrupting the service, so we came up with the tag-team plan.
Now I am quite ashamed to admit it, but after the inital trauma associated with bringing our son to church, we were in no hurry to take him again but we continued to pray about it. We thought that perhaps after the medical assessment we might have a better idea of how to deal with his anxiety. Unfortunately, most of what we know about how to handle his behaviour has come from making lots of mistakes and taking chances. We weren’t given a magical pill or book with all the answers on how to help our child when he was diagnosed with Autisic Spectrum Disorder. Don’t get me wrong, I have read numerous wonderful books filled with ideas, suggestions and case studies of children with ASD – but they mainly overwhelm me with the complexity of the disorder. The most important thing I have gained from these books is a bit of insight as to how it feels to actually have Autism.
Okay, fast forward to today, or rather last night. I brought up the topic of going to church as a family and my husband agreed we should give it a go and came up with a plan – bring lots of toys and snacks and most importantly STAY CALM no matter what happens and pray for our son to be open to the experience. If the worst came to the worst, we would just leave early. We simply felt that it couldn’t be wrong to try to bring him to church again.
As we parked the car, there was no whining or crying. As I got my son out of the car, not one whinge. As we walked into the building he held my hand and chattered happily, (completely ignoring the welcoming committee and heading straight into the service). He entered a room filled with people talking and he didn’t miss a beat. He found a seat, took off his coat (an absolutely monumental sign as his coat tends to be an object of security when he feels unsure) and kicked his legs and smiled happily. I dared not breathe through the first part of the service, but he was a good as gold. He danced and clapped and and sang along with the hymns. He thoroughly enjoyed the children’s service led by our friend Mark, which used a clip from Toy Story 3. When it came time to take him to the creche, he let us know that he was not happy to leave the service by pulling and falling to the fall (the old jelly legs routine). We stayed calm and my husband simply brought him back into the service while I settled my daughter in the creche with her friends. He sat contentedly on my husbands lap for the entire sermon without one complaint. He was brilliant!
I felt I needed to write this post today. I am so proud of my son. He was simply amazing. I know God is working in our lives. He brought us to this village, to this church, to this house, and He has blessed us in so many ways. Each time we leave our worries in God’s hands we are amazed that what He provides is so much better than we dared hope. Today was yet another example of this. Today my baby ENJOYED being in church with us. I’m so happy I could cry.