Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In Service (Life with #Autism)

If I get any details wrong, I trust Lori will leave a comment and correct me.  

Lori told me the other day the new Chldren's Director at church called and essentially the gist of it was that she was recommending we change church services.

There had been awhile where we were attending both services.  Lori typically sings with either the worship team or choir and I was working in the technical booth.  But then we found out that Ben wasn't doing well in two services - it turned out that he it was just too much for him.  So we started trading off - I could work in the technical booth or Lori could sing, but not both.  (That's why I stopped posting the sermon notes, I found to get really good notes I needed to listen to the sermon twice.  I miss that.)

Anyhow, yeah, so Ben was doing much better in only a single service.  Whoever wasn't "working" would bring him and Rachel to the second service.  When he was little, I'd bring him in for the beginning of the service because he loved the music.  But when we started going to both services, we'd place him in the nursery at the start of the service.  When we went back to one, we were still putting him in the nursery right away.  He's almost five, but he's little and because of his mental development, it was still seeming to work.   After his seizure I tried a few times to bring him in for the music but he was just upset and mean and scratching.  But now that he's on the new seizure medicine, I've been bringing him in and he's been loving it.

But the CD's observation was that the second service nursery is starting to fill up.  It was getting crowded, the noise seemed to start to be overwhelming him and there were also a lot of distractions like snacks (he will take the other childrens') and crafts (someone's trying to do crafts in that service's nursery but he can't sit still for them) that he was apparently interrupting.  The CD said one Sunday recently she went in and just started singing and calmed the chaos - most children started singing and Ben started swaying.

She suggested the earlier service would have fewer children so he'd get more attention and less overload. She and Lori also talked about what we'd do when he got too big to be in there.  The CD said that sometimes the structure in the next classes actually works for a child like Ben.  I imagine that's especially true when they have other structured environments like school.  The CD also said that since the high schoolers meet at the later service, that some attend the earlier service and she was pretty sure that she could recruit some to be a "Youth Buddy" to Ben.

So this Sunday we all got up early and went to the first service.  It turned out to a concert with music and children dancing.  I held him for part of it, but he got to be a bit much for my back so I let him sit in the open seat in front of me.  It was a risk because that was the front row and he could dart up onto the stage so I kept vigilant.  I also pounded the back of the chair with the beat so he could feel the music even more and hopefully it would encourage him to stay in his seat.  I have to say, he did amazingly well.  There were high school students along the rest of the row.  I have to say, he did amazingly well.  He say, he swayed, he really enjoyed to see the music.  At one point he did kind of get on his knees and lay on the chair with his head against one of the student's thighs, but beyond a quick glance at Ben, they seemed to brush it off as if it was nothing.  I don't know that student very well, but my impression of him is that he's a pretty laid back and easy-going guy so I didn't stress about that too much, but did get Ben back to sitting in the chair.

A little while later, he stretched out and started to ooze off the chair and so at that point I did take him to the nursery, not realizing that he'd sat through almost the entire service by himself.  That was pretty exciting.

So yeah, that's the story of our first "It's not working" story from the church about our five-year-old Autistic child still being in the nursery.  I'm so glad it was a positive story.  I'm so grateful for the all the people who are working with us as we navigate this.

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