Monday, January 17, 2011

Curious to know....

Are you a parent of a child or children with special needs and have quit attending church? If so, why? If not, what has your church done to accommodate your unique family situation and make it easier for you to attend? In what ways have you welcome or not welcome in your church?

If you'd rather answer this question anonymously, feel free. I have been thinking about this for a long time. I want to hear from you first, and then I'll share my thoughts.

23 comments:

Hevel said...

I have two children with hearing impairments, and I, too, have disabilities.

The first shul we attended in Israel there was a big issue with hearing aids and Cochlear Implants on the Shabbat, so we stopped attending there.

Our current shul is on the small side, in addition to my kids there is a girl with spina bifida and a boy, who is non-verbal and has cognitive delays. He is soon turning 13, so he is preparing for his bar mitzvah. He initially was taking part in the same class as my son is (bar mitzvah prep in my shul is part class, part individual tutoring by the rabbi), but he wasn't comfortable there, so now he receives double 1-on-1 by our rabbi.

While my shul is ver accomodating, we have already discussed what would happen if we had an influx of families with special needs. Since we are so small in membership, our only full time employee is the rabbi, and we don't have the resources to accomodate a family with multiple kids with special needs.

Anonymous said...

We attended a very small church for a while (1 class for infants thru 5 year olds) but once we brought home our 3rd special needs child we found a larger church that was more accommodating. My first sn child has HIV and down syndrome, the second isselectively mute (she refuses to talk, I have heard her say 5-10 words in 7 years but there is nothing wrong with her voice), and the third has cp, seizures, and is partially deaf. We met with the Childcare director and head pastor to figure out the childcare solution.
As of right now there is a "helper" in my ds son's class who sits next to him and reminds him to listen and helps him. He is 9 but is in the 4 year old class.
Our state provides a sign language translator for our daughter who is 12 so she either sits in the main service or the jr. High class with her translator. Our youngest who has the most special needs is in the nursery/2 year old class due to her needs. She is 4 but seems to do best in the nursery since she can't sit up unassisted and we don't take her wheelchair to church typically.

If any of them have issues in their class, the teacher will page us using the nurseries paging system and we will bring the child into service with us or into the crying room so we don't disturb those around us.

Alice said...

Our church is very welcoming and friendly to individuals with special needs. We have a deaf ministry with several interpretors during one of our services. We have many children with special needs, but no accomodations in the classes. I taught SS for years, so I have had experience from both sides. It was impossible to teach a class with just 1 little disruptive person. Unfortunately, the parents had to stay in class or find someone else to do it for them. It is still the same at our church. Many people were hoping I would step up and teach a "special" class, but I am not up for that. Andreas stays with us in church.

Lisa said...

My mom had luck with a special needs class held at a church she did not attend for awhile. Shen Aaron was little, he probably stayed with my parents. Even with normal kids, church proved a difficult season for me for a variety of reasons. When I most needed a break and some of God, I was required to help in the nursery for many years. I have much sympathy for young moms trying to have a relationship with God. Some good solutions were to have a room where mom could attend to kiddos and still hear the message. Rare church had a cry room like this. Good luck!!

Molly said...

Like Hevel I'm Jewish. (a shul is a synagogue for anyone who doesn't know)

At 13 children are bar or bat mitvahed and there are TONS of kids with special needs who do this. There are a lot of programs in the local synagogues and then I know there's a really good program about a half hour from me that has opened up to kids of all faiths. There's also an awesome Jewish day school near me that has a great special education section.

Justine said...

My church has been very accommodating. There are at least 4 children with DS at our church, all in the same age range (8-10). All were in the 4/5 year old class until recently, now 2 go to the 1st-5th grade class, 1 is with the 5 year olds, and Tim is in the 4 year old class (I decided on this based on several factors and after talking to the preschool director.) This has worked out wonderfully for us. The teachers and workers have been very welcoming and accommodating. I spent MONTHS with him in his class, helping him to transition and making sure he knew the routine, but now he does fine. I have only been called out of church once that I remember, and that was when he flat out refused to do ANYTHING for the substitute teacher. LOL. He just needed to be told that she was indeed his teacher. This past Sunday he had a substitute and I made sure to talk to Tim and the teacher both before leaving him and he did great.

I REALLY appreciate our church and their attitude. Our pastor even supported our Buddy Walk from the pulpit! I feel this church support is so important, because for our children with special needs, the church is a big part of the community that will be so important throughout their lives. I have much more to say about this, but some kids want breakfast now (imagine that.) :)

Amanda said...

Our church has not done anything specific to accommodate us but we typically keep the kids with us during service. It helps that the service is short. We are working on training our kids to sit still for the 30 minute sermon. Our church is also very small and that has helped us. They were open to me leaving our almost 6 year old in the baby/toddler room one day when she wanted to go.

Daughter of the King said...

This has been a huge area of struggle for our family. We attended the same church for 14 years and they did not ever welcome my brothers (we have adopted 3 boys with Downs)into the children's programs or make an effort to befriend them. Out of a church of 175/200 people 5 people would say hi to my brothers.My parents started alternating who would go to church as one of my brothers would scream when they would enter the sanctuary. They had to fight for my brothers to even be allowed the opportunity to go to sunday school.
I plan on adopting children with Downs in a few years and this is the one area that I do not look forward to facing. My parents desire is that they would find a church that openly accepts my brothers and allows them to be part of a church family.

kimk said...

our church (Christian, specifically-Catholic) has welcomed our son with DS with open arms. He was sick at birth and had 3 open heart surgeries his first year, for the last 2 years is now is doing great, BUT he is still prayed for in EVERY Mass. Most of the time, he is being nautghty and running around in the foyer, while they are praying for him by name. Our priest arranged for a friend/priest to visit us several times while we were in Boston (far far from home) while our son had and recovered from his 3rd surgery. The had a pancake breakfast and donated the profits to our local DS support group and Childrens heart Foundation. Our son is starting preschool in the fall, the preschool is in our church, despite the fact this preschool has never had a special needs child before, and the church is excited for Will to also start preschool religious education classes...we couldnt be more welcomed.
Our church and its members have been amazing!
I hope you have experienced the same and if not, pray that you find the right spiritual home for you.

Anonymous said...

We do not have any children with special needs at our church. I taught SS for 2 years at the toddler and preschool level. I don't know if I would have felt equipped in teaching/helping with special needs as I don't have any training.

Designs by DD said...

I find it so sad that churches fail to welcome the least of these. When I was growing up we attended a very large (2000+) congregation that had a class for individuals with special needs. This class was started by a special needs mom in the early 1950's. A second class was started in the 1980's. Most of the children with special needs were included in the regular classes and these two classes were primarily for those whose medical needs were far beyond the abilities of a non medical person. The original class was started by a R.N. who was raising her son with Ds.

The church where we are now is very small (<200) and people with special needs are welcomed. They are included in all classes and activities to whatever level they choose. I enjoy seeing one young man (about 11) who takes his turn serving as an usher just like all the other young men.

I have taught SS and don't feel the need for any special training. The key is to remember this person is a child first with all the needs, wants and desires of any child; we only need to learn and teach adaptability and stress acceptance.

Julie said...

We have 2 children with Ds, and attended fairly regularly with our 1st, but have backed off on attendance since our second was placed with us in December. It really has nothing to do with how welcoming the church has been (they have been very welcoming and supportive of our adoption). The reason we are not attending with our 3 year old right now is because she does not tolerate the stimulation of a large group of people, the singing, etc.. My husband and I take turns attending with our other 2 kids for now, and are hoping that in time she'll be able to tolerate and enjoy church. It was a struggle for our 1st child with Ds at first, too.

We don't utilize the nursery much, but the nursery coordinator has been very welcoming to my 4 year old, even though he doesn't fit into the age range for nursery. We haven't attempted SS, but I have no doubt that if we inquired, the leadership would do anything they could to accomodate him. He isn't ready for that, though. ;)

Alice said...

I was thinking more about this subject. There is a wonderful group of moms in our church, from our homeschool co-op actually, who are concerned about the moms of special needs kids. They have been praying about how we can minister to the moms. We may end up taking turns at their homes with the children so that the parents are able to go to church.

There is another group of people praying about how we can actively include our "special" church members into our ministries. For example, Andreas may be paired up with a greeter at one of the entrances. He LOVES to greet people, and he especially LOVES opening and closing doors. It is a perfect fit for him. It will give him something purposeful to do, and so many people will be blessed by his smile and enthusiasm.:)

waiting said...

Our church is very welcoming to all types of people, they have a very large cry room and our pastor commonly says this is a family church, kids will cry, make noises, etc. if YOU feel you need a break, please use the cry room anytime. We specifically go to this church because it is so accommodating to all. It is a United Church of Christ church and their MO is EVERYONE is welcome and they really mean it. There are many adoptive families at this church.

Our Story: Continued said...

Reese is in the nursery and doing very well. One of the teachers is a physician's assistant and always wants to know what therapy goals we're working on, so she can also work on it with Reese. Darah has a sweet buddy who shadows her in the regular kinder ss class. Any child who needs a buddy/shadow has one in our church...and they've been nothing but accomodating. We do need to go to the same service time in order to utilize the shadow, which can be difficult sometimes...but when we go to another service time, D just goes to the preschool class with her brother and can do fine without a buddy. Our church is pretty large...but we have been so individually embraced like we were part of a super tight-knit family. There are many kids with special needs at our church which prompted our special need ministry.

Lisa said...

I've had a hard time having a child with pretty severe ADHD. We attended our first service as last year began but the teacher for the class - a LARGE church and the class was K-4! - would basically just send him out to me instead of trying to work with him. I was told to try the second service which had a great teacher and it has gone much better. There are still days I take him out, but as a single parent I really needed a teacher who would work with us so that I could get time in the service. It has been good. We did end up quitting Wed night service however due to similar issues. ADHD is hard. I don't think most people understand that for many of these kids they truly can't control their activity and they see them as purely defiant. A struggle to say the least.

Anonymous said...

I have not attended church since adopting my daughter who has DS. She has a habit of spitting (or if you want to put it nicely ... blowing raspberries) constantly. I have been worried about how the curch members would react to this during service. We do not have a nursery at the church.

Janet

Mary said...

We have 3 boys with DS and are Catholic. I usually have all three with me on Sunday...hubby is Catholic too, but we choose different churches and the kids get to pick which one they want to go to. Those that can choose usually choose to go with me.
We sit in the front pew, so the fact that there are lots of other people behind us is not a big deal
. I have always had at least a year to work on "church behavior" with each of my kids before introducing the next child to Church...we usually started taking them when they were about 4 or 5 years old. Catholic Mass typically lasts about an hour on Sunday, but our Mass tends to be quicker, and there is much movement to follow along with.We recently had Joey (age 10, adopted 3 years ago) and Jacob (age 11, adopted last year) Baptized, Confirmed and they made their first Communion. The typical way for non infants to do this would be to receive instruction during the year then receive these sacraments at Easter Vigil Mass...a 3 hour long Mass starting about 8 pm on the Saturday before Easter. I talked to our priest and we decided that would not be a good plan, that I teach them at home (no Sunday school classes at our church, all kids just go to Mass with their families) and he would do the Baptism. IT all went well, we had their first Communion at the regular Mass we usually attend (hubby came with us that week), and everyone was very welcoming to them.
Catholic churches are well known for not being "chatty" after the Mass...so I don't miss that fellowship feeling. We have tried one Catholic summer program and they were not welcoming, but a couple of other churches were welcoming of our boys in their summer Bible school. Of course, that was Joey (overtly cute and charming, and able to hold it together for a week of Bible school without any fits) and not Jacob (from whom I right now have major scratches from my neck halfway down my chest because we were "playing" this morning!)
I don't know what we are going to do with 2 new ones this year....I think hubby and I will have to figure out somethign so we go together.

Deb D. said...

Wow. That's a deep and very significant question. Obviously, I have no experience from which to comment. But I will say I (sadly) have never thought of the unique circumstances you would encounter. I'd love to know what you learn and your thoughts. I think many of us will be able to learn from this.

Anonymous said...

We attend a large church and normally they are very accomodating. Carson has DS and goes into the classroom for his age and does not need any special treatment. He is not totally potty trained and they have let us know that we would need to come get him if he had a dirty diaper, but that was a minor annoyance. For a Friday parents night out they did try to put him in the 2 yr classroom because he was not potty trained and I quickly requested for that to be changed and it was. Overall the people that know Carson adore him- new people it may take a week or 2 and they realize he is a little boy. We are thankful for our church and can't ever leave because we are welcome. We NEVER visit other churches because we have not had the same experience - one church refused to let him in the nursery- I don't take that chance again. It is so easy to recognize the people that love your child, and the workers for our church do love Carson. For that I am very thankful.

Kayla

Sean and Lisa said...

This is such a hard area for us. We have attended the same church for 14 years and were very active in leadership for many years. We have adopted 5 sn children and have struggled with the church situation. We've tried having them sit with us in service(we practiced at home all week), alternating parents (we'd all come for worship and then one parent stays with older boys and the other parent takes the 5 little ones home)and have also tried classes. We ended up doing the alternating thing longest. (2+ years) Our church does have a sn sunday school class but only 1 of our children is "severe" enough to go to this class. The baby stays with mom in service, the toddler has just started going to class and the 5 & 8 yr old were going to class but 8 yr. old has caused so much ruckus (and humiliation for us!) that now he is sitting in service with us too. The sn class is a wonderful benefit but they do no teaching or anything with the kids/adults. It is not age specific. We take a play computer for child to use to entertain herself in class.

The Spicer Family said...

Charissa, I know you saw all the sad comments on my blog when I talked about this very subject. It's just so hard. I feel like our church has some good options in place but the issue always comes back to the individuals involved. By that I mean, which teachers are there, are they prepared to deal with things not going as planned, are they willing to give our kids a chance to try and participate, even when that participation doesn't follow the script. Since Vera is now in the middle school area, the problems are different again. I just found out that the boys in her age group are being mean to her. Just her. Song and Anna have complained to the teachers about it and absolutely nothing has been done. It breaks my heart. I need to talk to the youth minister but just don't want to be 'that' mom.

My point being that unless the church loudly and frequently talks to the congregation then you will continue to have people who treat our kids poorly and think nothing of it.

Love your heart, friend. I know God has our back!

Ursula said...

I go to a large church in Oklahoma City called Crossings. I liked my church before we had our daughter Joy (who has DS). I AM IN LOVE with our church since we brought her home. They don't have special program for kids w/special needs, but they have us put her in whatever age room we think is best. She is loved. She is celebrated. I can talk with people about what is great and what is hard about parenting her w/out feeling like a freak. It's the one place w/lots of people where I don't feel conspicuous. When we got her the older children's worker met w/me and said "I just want you to know we will make sure J always has a place here."

Reading this post makes me so sad for people who have had different experiences and so thankful for our church.