Today we’d like to give you a peek into our email box and share a message we recently received.
On Sunday, a five- or six-year-old boy was brought to our Children’s Church. He is autistic and non-verbal. It didn’t go well for a few reasons. There wasn’t a heads-up until class started. We only had two helpers in the classroom. All things considered, we had our best people in the classroom that day. The lead is a teacher of that age group in the school system who has seen a lot. The assistant was our most mature teen. Unfortunately, the boy roamed around the room during the lesson and was trying to eat everyone’s snack. The other children in the class were upset and perplexed. They are from age three to seven.
The teacher said when there is a student with needs like that in her regular classroom, there is a one-on-one aide. Our church is pressed to find enough teachers as it is, but we see the need to bring in one more person to work with the boy when he comes. Unfortunately, the children’s service is at the same time as the regular worship service, so when we teach, we miss the service. Obviously, it would be ideal to have the same person each time to work with the boy, but not too feasible to ask someone to miss the service each week.
Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience at your church and wondered how to respond. The following are the highlights we shared with the church volunteer.
The situation your church faced last week is not surprising. It would be ideal if parents would give a heads up, but often they are so burned out or afraid a church will say don’t come that they sometimes drop and run. Kudos to your team for doing the best they could.
Does anyone know the mom? Find someone who could speak compassionately with her. Assure Mom that your goal is not to prevent the child from coming, but to prepare most effectively to meet both his needs and those of the other students. Usually, when parents find you’re not trying to keep them out, they will talk. You could enlist her help to learn what they use at home and at school that you could mimic (structure, picture schedule, keywords, or simple sign language, etc).
You might also ask if they have any waiver or support hours (they are called differently in every state). Often families have dollars slated to have an aide go with them to community outings, including church. You could inquire if they have someone they could bring to assist the child.
I already mentioned Mom may be overwhelmed and in need of a break. Yet still some churches ask the parent to stay with the child in Sunday School until a suitable buddy is found and trained. Granted, it is not ideal, but it gives your team support for the child, insight into the family relationship, and eyes on how the family handles his behaviors.
Recruiting another person to help in the classroom is a wonderful idea. I would recommend you try to recruit two people. This allows the child to have some familiarity and structure with the buddy and allows the buddy to not miss every week of church. One could serve the 1st and 3rd weeks and the other the 2nd and 4th and rotate the 5th week between them.
Once you recruit buddies, see if Mom, or an aide from school or home, will share ideas so the buddy can most effectively support the child.
In terms of recruitment, it’s tough all over in churches. I wish that were not so. If there is opportunity, an announcement could be shared that there is a new family at church who need some extra support during children’s church. If you’d like to be part of the team, contact _____. Help potential volunteers see that by supporting this child at church, they are also ministering to Mom.
Those are the initial thoughts we shared. What else would you add?