Setting Expectations

Posted by Rebecca Black on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 Under: Autism Parents
It came to me rather forcefully at our last Special Grace service (this past Sunday) how acclimated I have become to living in what we optimistically believe to be a sensory-friendly worship experience.

Sadly, we once again had no families coming to worship (more on this later) but we DID have some guests -- visitors from another church in the Diocese. Guests are always fun because they give a chance to articulate what we live. I know for myself I am often so immersed in how we do what we do that it takes an "outsider" question to remind me of why we do it the way we do.

For instance, one of the questions asked by the visitors is how we set limits on behaviors or set an expectation around no aggressiveness. Its a good question, one that should be asked. But its a harder question to answer in our context than it might be in a different setting.

My experience is that setting limits on behavior is a moot point at A Special Grace. Most of the families who attend are already beset by the world's demands about "behavior." Many have been grievously wounded by the judgment of churchgoers in other settings about their child's behaviors.

In fact, we often find that we need to encourage parents to let go a little in our setting -- their anxiety that we will judge their child based on "behavior" sometimes holds them back from fully experiencing that here is a place to experience God. And at A Special Grace, we experience God on the floor, upside down, rocking in our seat, huddling in the tent, wrapped in a blanket or even screaming on the floor. This is life with young people on the Autism Spectrum. Despite any of our best intentions or efforts, it is alternatively messy, elaborately arranged, sporadic, consistent, turbulent or dull. It is always exhilarating. And we have no expectations of "behavior" in our time with God. It is what it is. Or what it needs to be in that place, at that time.

Of course we have expectations that children will not be aggressive with one another, and of course aggression can be a factor of life with a person on the Autism Spectrum. But I have to say that in 14 years of ordained ministry, I have witnessed maliciousness, spite and even physical aggression on the part of NT parishioners. And I have never known one of our Special Grace children to intend hurting anyone in any way. Not saying they are innocent doves, mind you. Anyone who has witnessed the manipulation of an Aspie, or the anger generated by an affront to logic (oh that old Theory of Mind thing again!) knows that our special kids can be just as aggravating and maddening as any NT kid.

So I'd like to offer the expectations that we DO have of participants in A Special Grace; expectations we have of all the families we know and love -- not just those who show up in our physical space to worship together, but those who participate online -- in forums, by Twitter.

We expect that God will touch you in your lives -- in act we know that is happening and will continue to happen. We expect (and hope to show you often!) that you will know how honored and overjoyed we are that you share your family with us. We expect that each and every one of "our" special kids is known and loved intimately by God. We expect that each parent will learn and come to fully believe that ALL of God's children are welcome in God's Kingdom. Including them.

Blessings and love!

In : Autism Parents 

Tags: autism worship episcopal