Sunday, December 25, 2011

Going to Church at Christmas

One of the very hardest things that I have ever tried to do was to bring Katie to church.  Any parent with small children can tell you that the whole "going to church" event can be beyond exhausting.  First, there is the prep work; getting the kids dressed up fancy, packing the bag of essentials, getting them packed in the car, and driving there.  Once you actually get to church the real fun begins.  Where do you sit?  Is there an easy exit strategy in place?  How long do you tough it out before leaving in a "blaze of glory"?  And don't even try to pay attention to what is going on with the service, you are too busy keeping the kids quiet and occupied and trying not to disturb those around you.  Now, add a dose of Autism and shake it up real good.

I first started taking Katie to church when she was about 4.  We would start out in the "cry room" where we wouldn't disturb anyone.  A few years later, I felt she was well behaved enough to enter the general population.  Boy, was the congregation in for a treat.  Katie caught on real quick to the hymns and prayers, and worshiped to her full ability.  Swaying side to side, signing at the top of her lungs, loudly responding with the prayers.  I didn't know if I should laugh or cry.  It was amazing that she was so involved in the service, but I am sad to say it was a bit embarrassing at first for her to be so verbose about it.  After a while, I got used to it, and grew to enjoy her style of worship (my oldest daughter, not so much).  However, Katie has a strange aversion to baptisms or special services of any kind, and will get very agitated if something different is "on the schedule".  She has gotten good at reading the "upcoming events" in the church bulletin, and skipping out on service those days. 

And then there is Christmas service.  Crowds, heat, different people, different songs, are all a recipe for an early exit.  First comes the fidgeting.  Then come the red cheeks.  Then comes the whining.  Then comes the tears.  The biggest problem is that she won't let me take her out in the hallway, because then she thinks she is in trouble.  So I end up trying to apologize to all the people around us for her being so loud.  I know I don't have to, but I feel better if people know that she is Autistic and not just a bratty kid.  I have had many dirty looks thrown my way as Katie flips back and forth in the pew, but I can honestly say, every time I have apologized and told them she is Autistic, they always become very sympathetic.  One year, she was sprawled all the way across the pew and refused to stand up for any reason.  One year she decided to spend the whole service sitting on the floor.  This year she did fine until she got hot, and decided that it was time for dinner.  So next time you see us at church, you might want to sit on the opposite side of the church, unless you want to join us in our Adventures in Autism.

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