For over a year, we’ve been going to the same church. We’re nicely settled in. People give my autistic son fist bumps and high fives and I get comments all the time about how much they love my boys. And then. Then there’s Children’s Church. Unfailingly, he will become disobedient, aggressive, and have a really big meltdown. Can he control it? I’m not sure. But he’s not gone back since the last time he hit two children. Since I’m in choir, one of his Sunday School teachers sits with him and he does relatively well there. It’s when he is in a room with a bunch of children handling multiple transitions and loud music that he has the most trouble. In efforts to help everyone understand autism, I did an autism information session last night at church. What I meant to last maybe an hour took over two hours.
The Autism Information Session
So, the presentation itself, which included links to videos, was maybe 45 -60 minutes of information. It included a ton of information, including the following:
- The definition of autism.
- The areas of life impacted by autism.
- What is the difference between speech, language, and communication?
- What is sensory processing disorder?
- How to manage behaviors.
Here is a link to the presentation: Autism Information Session
[bctt tweet=”Learn more about autism with this autism information presentation. #understandingautism” username=”embracespectrum”]
Questions About Autism
Throughout the autism information session, interested church members asked a lot of questions. In fact, these questions took up a good portion of our time. Having these healthy conversations about autism, what it is, what it isn’t, and how to help are extremely important for our autistic community. Parents need to feel comfortable taking their children out in public without scowls. Children need to feel comfortable going out in public without feeling judged or excluded. A majority of the questions about autism information included questions about how to help with the sensory issues, how best to talk to him when he’s upset, and about visual cues. “What if” scenarios also got addressed. For instance, “What if he doesn’t like getting an ‘X’ on his chart?” Answer: He will not like it, but my experience tells me that he will change his behavior and “turn it around.”
About Behavior Issues
To be clear, I do expect my child to behave. But I expect him to behave with regard for what he’s able to do. No, he shouldn’t hurt people, but there are ways to keep others safe during explosive meltdowns (never try to remove the violent child–always remove the audience). Also, there are ways to reduce these meltdowns. Admittedly, I’ve felt exhausted and just got around to creating visual aids to assist him in making it through his day. I need to consistently use these, and so does everyone else. He simply doesn’t respond to words. He does respond to a structured reinforcement/consequence schedule as long as routines and rules are firmly in place. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and behaviors don’t change that quickly either, but with everyone on board to help, it can happen.
All-in-all, I believe the autism information session went really well. Not one showed anything but love and concern for my son. I emphasized as much as possible that these are things that work for him, and all children are different. I would love to see more parents with autistic children coming to church and feeling the same love we do there. If nothing else, they are at least more knowledgeable and have more tools in their toolbox when it comes to helping out.
In the end, there are two things that matter here:
- My son feels safe and loved
- Other children feel safe and loved
I would love to go out and present information to more people in the community and help them understand autism better. Although I no longer teach special education, autism education has always been my favorite thing.