To worship God is not easy when you have autism: #LIGHTtheWORLD

4 December 2016:

To be honest, I did not feel like going to Church that day. Which was one of the things suggested, in the light of the world calendar, on mormon.org. I woke up with a splitting head ache, and I had fallen asleep, the night before, trying to prepare a lesson, full of gospel principles, but without a red thread through it. I do like it better when there is a red thread through lessons, so the children get the idea, why we are talking about this or that, a particular Sunday. Having slept instead of preparing, meant getting up earlier and sitting preparing a lesson under time pressure. Not good at all. The ideal thing is, to prepare days ahead. Those were the days when I could do that!

One thing, which had me feeling down in the dumps, was the fact that I never know if I will have any students anymore. Since my 12-year-olds disappeared out of my class, mid-year, things have not been the same and I am having a tough time feeling motivated. How can one be? The one boy, who comes most regularly, lays down over two chairs and sleeps during my lessons. Or he crawls around under the table. Another boy, who has been diagnosed with autism, hardly ever comes and when he does, he sits and plays games on his mobile phone. And the girl, belonging to my class, has autism and ADHD, does not want to be in church at all, is forced in to my classroom by her parents and I see her about once every three months.

Will we ever know everything there is to know about autism?

Will we ever know everything there is to know about autism?

You could say, that I would be the perfect teacher for these children, since I have four sons with autism and one of them having ADHD. But not so! First of all, they are all on different levels of understanding and secondly they have all been taught different amounts of religion, or not at all. I am not educated to teach and have no idea how to teach children with such varied background knowledge. Nor do I really know how to adapt lesson after lesson of abstract things, so that it can be understood by children who can’t understand abstract things! I am definitely not qualified for the calling I have in church. But I try to do my best, even though it is disheartening to often only have one child in the classroom , who is not one bit interested, and having spent hours preparing for the lesson.

The thing is also, that one always knows one’s own children best. I know my own children’s autism and how to deal with it, while I do not know how to deal with these other children’s autism and attention problems. I do not know how to make things more interesting and what I can say to them and not. Just because they have the same diagnosis doesn’t mean they are all the same!

We have decided to take our boys to church no matter what, even when we are in doubt. Habilitation even scolded me a little, when I told them that perhaps it would be best if one of us stayed home every week, with them. They do not understand what is being taught. They have a difficult time with associating with the other children and the grown ups. Not everyone being sympathetic and understanding! They have their meltdowns, which is very embarrassing for me, since it feels like a personal failure, the above mentioned adults judging. Lessons and how these and music (songs) are taught, are not conducive to the way autistic people learn things. Most of the time, it feels like a waste going, since it is not meaningful for my boys. But, habilitation told me:

1. “It is important that it becomes a habit for them. They know that on Sundays, you go to church and that is just how it is. Because that is what you parents do.”

2. “If they have to sit and play games on a mobile phone, during the sacrament meeting, so be it. One must always understand that autistic people always do as well as they can. If they have to play on a mobile phone, to be able to sit still and not get upset, then that is how it is going to have to be. It is noone else’s business.”

So, we have a rule. No mobile phones, before sacrament is taken, nor during the passing of the sacrament. When that has been passed, I try to make them sit and colour, but usually they do not have the patience for it anymore. Especially since “Kitty” refuses to do that, and brings his mobile out. Then the other two, do not want to do anything different.

But what about this Sunday? I had the autistic boy only, in my class. That was it! He sat and watched something on a small reading tablet and what was I supposed to do? He really does not want to come to class and he comes so rarely, that I have to create a positive environment. He did colour one Christmas picture, while I tried to teach him some things, but when class was over, I doubt he had picked up any knowledge at all. Don’t know if he heard a thing I said, really. And then his cousin came and told him, it was time to leave, so they took off and I walked in to Primary, only to find out that there were no children. There stood one counselor, all prepared to teach a lesson she had prepared to teach. There stood one song leader, prepared to teach Christmas songs and her mother had come in to play the piano. And there sat “Boo’s” teacher, but no “”Boo”.

We have been speaking about reverence for an entire month, but I doubt one single child has REALLY understood what it means. Sure, they understand that reverence means sitting still. Which is something the older group has a tough time with. But what they do not understand is, that reverence also means to LISTEN. To listen to what a teacher is saying, because the teacher has spent a lot of time, preparing for what she is going to say. And what she is saying, all pertains to God, so it is important and the reason why we go to church.

I went in search of “Boo”, because I felt disappointed on behalf of all the grown ups who had done their best to prepare things for the children. He did not want to come in to the room, especially since there were no other children there. I got upset and told him that K. had spent as much time as I had, to prepare a lesson. Him having seen me struggle that morning. And I told him how upset she must feel, for wasting all that time, when she could have done something more fun. She might have wanted to watch a film instead or sitting colouring in a colouring book for grown ups. But she had to prepare a lesson. For HIM! I know, not nice putting a guilt trip on him, but he was taken there, not to sit and play games on his reading tablet, out in the hallway, but to learn something. At least it is my hope, that the children will pick something up. So I begged him to come in, so that the grown ups would get something to do. And he finally gave in.

It was too complicated a lesson for him, about how all the prophets of old, foretold the birth of the Messiah. Since he is dyslexic and can not read properly yet, we grown ups had to read the scripture places instead. And then he, who does not like to sing on command, had to sit and sing the Christmas song, we are practising on. But of course, the rest of us sang to our hearts’ content, so he did not have to feel alone. And the young song leader, has done beautiful illustrations of the words, so that it is perfect for him. Which I had to point out to him, when he said he did not know, what the text was for the song. When he did finally look up from his tablet, he did see that the pictures actually did help him!

Whoever thought that going to church is a relaxing thing, was entirely wrong. Not when you are the mother of autistic children. The easiest thing would be to stay home, which the other parents do! But I hate to give up, I hate to give in. I can’t let my Heavenly Father down, who expects me to be there. And I really do want my children to learn, that the Sabbath day is the official day when we honour our God. When we do things differently, than the rest of the week.

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