Autism, OCD, and Sunday School
Sundays are always interesting in the Dyer house. And by interesting, I don’t mean fun. When Rachel’s routine is disrupted, she becomes anxious. Anxiety prevents her from sleeping. Saturdays are a deviation from our school routine, which means Rachel doesn’t sleep well on Saturday nights. There are weeks when Rachel doesn’t go to sleep until after midnight, which means I don’t either.
So, then comes the challenge of getting ready for church. Rachel’s special needs class is held during the early service, so if she is up late, she still has to get up early. That never goes well. (Please note: I’m not complaining about when the class takes place. I am very happy to have a class for her!)
So, a few weeks ago, we had a Morning. We made it to church … 15 minutes late. I was so defeated. Rachel screamed during each step of her morning routine: teeth brushing, hair brushing, getting dressed, getting into the car, and getting out. By the time we stepped into the church building, I was wondering why we bothered.
Rachel made it to class and pulled me into the bathroom for a potty break. Once inside, she spent ten minutes obsessing over the placement of the trash can. I watched her with a fireball forming in my stomach. I had suspected Rachel also had obsessive-compulsive issues in addition to her autism … and this was confirming it. After I broke her free of that, she threw a fit because another child sat in the ball pit (she considers it her ball pit).
I shook my head at the teacher. “This is why we don’t come to church every week.”
She nodded and gave me a sympathetic look. Then she shooed us out the door and told us to enjoy what was left of church. When we entered the quiet church room, I sank into my seat. “God? Life with my precious daughter is so hard. Why?” I wanted to cry. And I wanted to shout at the other parents in there, seated so comfortably, having dropped off their well-behaved, neuro-typical children. Why couldn’t we have that?
So, of course, God used the sermon to speak to me. We don’t go through journeys in life just to have a fun and life easy. Life is about learning and about developing character, perseverance, and hope. Not only that, but God will use those character and hope-building moments in my life to give hope to others. To pass hope on to others is a privilege!
So, my friends, may you be filled with hope. Every day is a blessing. Some days are difficult, yes, but that makes the good moments sweeter. And, above all, we have hope in Jesus that all things will be made new in heaven.
Thanks so much for this post. I've been struggling with the "is it worth the struggle to go?" My boys are 4 and 5 yrs old. The five year old has a general anxiety disorder and SPD and the four year old has SPD. Going anywhere is an overwhelming feat. We haven't been to church since my youngest started his Occupational Therapy. Both boys get an hour a week, plus my daily attempts at home. I'm going to start attending church again during family month in August. I feel better knowing I'm not the only one who struggles.
Thanks so much for this. I coordinate special needs ministry at my church – Providence Baptist in Raleigh, NC – and write about it at my blog, http://www.theworksofgoddisplayed.com, it's so helpful to learn more about what Sunday mornings can be like for the families I love each week.
Once again, you hit the nail on the head! Going to church is one of the hardest things for all the reasons you listed. My husband and I began taking turns going to church so one could stay home with our special needs son (he would scream as soon as we walked in the building, and not stop until we left – no matter what we tried or how long we stayed). We made progress a few years ago but now it is very difficult again.
Thank you for sharing and letting God speak encouragement to all of us through you.