Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Connections at church

On Sunday we took both of the kids to a different church than usual. We've been sporadically attending St. Peter's, which is right around the corner from us and their latest Mass on Sundays is at 11:30. Right down the road though, is St. Joan of Arc, where my family went for a sizable chunk of my childhood, and they have a 12:30 Mass, so we decided to give it a try. Usually, I take Maria to Mass, and Kristy stays home with Joseph, but we want to be able to all go to church together, as a family.

Shortly after we settled into the "crying room" a lady poked her head in through one of the two doors and said, "If anyone needs to get out through this door, just knock on it. I'll be sitting against it on the other side to keep the autistic boy from running out through it." Kristy and I looked at each other with bemused expressions and I asked her, "Who told her?"

A couple of minutes later, a woman came in with a boy carrying a Thomas the Tank Engine backpack. He looked like he was around 7 or 8 years old. I realized that the woman on the other side of the door was referring to this child, not mine (of course). She got out some dry-erase markers and a couple of lap-sized white boards and her son spent most of Mass sitting on the floor, happily drawing. Joseph, on the other hand, spent most of Mass screaming and trying to get away from us. He even bit Kristy on the shoulder repeatedly, which is not typical for him. Joseph got loose at one point, and Kristy explained to her that he's got autism too. She said that she recognized the sounds he was making.

During Communion, one of the other parents from the crying room was in front of me, and I noticed that her son was holding his hands over his ears and looking distressed. Oh, and during Communion, Joseph was screaming so loudly that I could hear him from the front of the very large church, through the glass that encloses the crying room, over the cantor and accompanist. It was rather impressive actually.

After Mass, I found out that out of the four families in the crying room, three of us had kids with Autism. The first mother asked us if this was our regular Mass, because she is usually by herself in the crying room and, she said, "It's good to have someone else who, you know..." the other mother and I looked at each other and chuckled and said, "Oh yeah, we know."

Once we finally have a diagnosis for Joseph, and it's all official, I think we're going to see about starting a group at church for parents of kids with autism spectrum disorders. I know that the couple of times that I've been able to talk to other parents about our kids, it's made me feel so much better. It sounds like just about every parent of a child with autism feels isolated and alone, but with 1 in 100 kids having an ASD, there's no reason for that. I don't want to join any groups yet, because I don't like saying, "I think my son has an autism spectrum disorder." I think I'm just waiting until I can confidently say, "My son has Autism."

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