David will be 8 in a few short months, and in just over a month it will be the two year anniversary of his diagnosis. Although, realistically, we have been living in the world of Autism for much longer.
I honestly can’t remember the last time we attended church for an entire service as a family. For years, it’s simply been too much for David.
On top of all of that, David has difficulty keeping quiet for that long while taking in so much sensory input.
So, we stopped.
We’ve done online church from our living room but that’s as far as it gets.
Last night, we attempted Maundy Thursday service with my parents. They attend a small start-up church. They knew there was a strong possibility that I would need to walk out with him at any given point.
We tried it.
We made it to the second hymn.
Then, It happened.
The piano started and the violin joined.
Sensory overload meltdown ensued.
My heart sank. While there were other littles crying at times, it’s just not the same when your eighty pound seven year old has a meltdown.
I immediately walked out with David as to not cause too much of a disturbance. We went to the bathroom. He collected himself and I talked to him. I told him everything was going to be ok and I was there to help him. I gave him some time and just wrapped him up. I asked him if we was ready to go sit back down. He hesitantly agreed.
We went back in and sat down.
While the rest of the service didn’t go swimmingly, he made it.
It was tough for all of us. We didn’t have to completely abort mission, so we call that a win.
We were proud.
Reflecting afterwards, it made me sad that once again we were reminded just how much this world was not made for him.
It made me sad to know that even in a church there were stares. Why was a kid his size having a meltdown to the point of tears with his hands over his ears?
I told my husband that I wanted to wear a shirt to the next service that says something about Autism. In that moment, I felt the need to justify our actions. But, after I got over my own pity party worrying about what other people thought of us and how I handle my son, I dusted myself off and concentrated on what I can do to help him next time.
We went out right after church and bought a pair of noise cancelling headphones.
Then, tonight we made adjustments.
We brought the headphones.
We brought his tablet.
We chose a different place to sit so David had a full view of everything going on, no surprises.
While it may not have looked like what you imagine seeing a seven year old boy sitting in church would look like,
We did it.
For the first time in years, we made it through an entire church service as a family without any meltdowns or having to walk out.
It wasn’t easy for him. There were parts he winced and buried his head into my chest but he made it.
While everyday is Autism Awareness and Acceptance day in our lives, it is also a day that is very near and dear to us. It is a day that is so desperately needed so that the world understands – not every disability is visible to the naked eye.
You never know what battles someone is fighting.
Try accepting and understanding first.
#worldautismawarenessday #autism #autismacceptance #hurricaneheffners