Take Me To Church. 

In case you were wondering , yes I was taken to Church! 

I loved going to Church as a child, and I always assumed I would do as my parents had done for me. That I would take my children to Church. After my son was diagnosed with autism the simple exercise of going to Church became challenging. A lot more challenging. Especially in my son’s younger years. 

I spent some time recently with a wonderful lady who is passionate about disability and church inclusion. I learnt so much from listening to her share about the work she has been involved in at her church to achieve this.  I thought about my own experiences and came up with a few ideas on how churches and faith communities can excel at loving, accepting and embracing children and adults with disabilities and their families. Here goes…

1. Listen. Churches need to listen to the parents, the siblings and the person with the disability. Really listen. We all desire to be heard and understood. Validating the journey is so important. Disability does not last a week or a month.  For many people it will last a lifetime so listen and continue to listen. Keep an ongoing dialogue. Church leadership and/or appointed key Church volunteers need to make a time to meet with the person or family, and at a location and time most convenient to them. Start with asking the question: ‘how can we serve you better?’ Don’t assume. Don’t pass the buck. Communicate and Listen. 

2. After listening comes a decision to make a heart change. This starts with the Church leadership. Make the attitude adjustment. I mean really go there. People often support the idea of inclusion until they actually have to make a change, or they find themselves outside of their comfort zone. Accommodations may be needed for that family or that person. The temptation may be to only think about the costs. Or the inconvenience. Making the decision to have an attitude change will make the practicalities of true inclusion and real acceptance so much easier. 

3. The National Organization on Disability found that  85% of people surveyed (both with and without disabilities) state their religious beliefs as being important in their lives, but only 47% of people with a disability attend Church at least once a month. What can be done to remove the barriers that prevent church members with disabilities from attending? I would encourage Church leaders to meet with its members, do some research, brain storm, set goals and make a plan to remove any and all of these  barriers. Check out the website disabilitiesandfaith.org – it has links to a range of faiths and denominations and loads of great info too! 

4. As Hubby says to me: ‘it’s not ‘them’ and ‘that Church’, it’s ‘us’ and ‘our Church’. I know what it is to be in Church leadership and I know what it is to be a Church member. Church leadership absolutely has an important role to play in setting the tone for an inclusive and welcoming culture. However it has been everyday church members, those without a title, who have often made the most positive difference to our Sunday experience and to our overall sense of wellbeing and belonging in our faith community. If every church member can ask ‘how can I serve this family or this person with a disability better?’ …then love has legs. And that is truly a beautiful thing.

5. Parents and Carers can feel isolated. Caring for a person or a child with a disability can be tiring. Practical help is always a blessing. In the case of my son his disability is not physical and can therefore be ‘hidden’ or ‘invisible’. If the Church can show kindness in practical ways it can make a huge difference. Making and delivering a meal, free babysitting, a cup of coffee waiting at church free of change, carrying a mom’s bag into church, helping someone to their car, watching a child after church so mom and dad can fellowship. Showing kindness in small and practical ways can be incredibly meaningful. It certainly has meant a lot to me. 

6. Don’t say stupid things if you can possibly help it. Think before you speak. As the old adage goes: If you can’t think of anything nice to say…well… You know the rest. 

7.  Say things like ‘Thankyou for making the effort to come today’, ‘You are doing a great job raising your child’, and ‘We are so blessed to have you here today’. Address the person with the disability. As a parent I don’t want people’s pity and I also don’t want be the reason somebody else feels like their life is not that bad. I always want my faith community to love and value our Kiddo.

8. My child is going to grow into an adult- true story! I want him to know and be assured of his place and value in our faith community both now and in the future. Having some of the young and older men in our church reach out to greet and connect with my son means the world to me and Hubby. Ted and Craig are two men in my Church who talk to Kiddo every Sunday. It blesses my Mama heart every time and I believe Kiddo feels accepted because these men treat him with kindness, dignity and respect. Yeah it even makes me teary. These men are the real deal in my book. 

9. Having a Children’s Program that can cater for children with special needs. My friend shared with me how she trained volunteers to be ‘shadows’ for children with disabilities, only stepping in if needed. She organized for each child in the program to have their own basket made up with instructions for the volunteer and other supports like visuals, schedules, fidget toys, favorite toys and even light coverings for a child who had struggles in that area. I believe children with disabilities should be included in the regular program to the fullest extent possible. I do not believe the parents should have to miss Service on an ongoing basis to make this possible. Yeah- see Tip #2. 

10. Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’ [Matthew 11 v 28 NLT.] I don’t have a disability but I am sure it can cause one to feel weary. This promise from Christ Himself is one I would love to see fufilled for all people with a disability who come to Church. That they would experience it as a place of rest, acceptance, inclusion and love. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing! 

I would love to read about any ideas you have to add to the list. Or any experiences you want to share are always welcome ! 

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Going Primal! 

I am honestly enjoying the process of writing my book so much and I’m super excited to see it coming together. A huge thank you to all of you who have been cheering me on! The following is an extract from the book that I wanted to share with you. The Chapter is entitled: Going Primal! 

Here goes….

My normally laid back and easy going self switched into a different gear, one I didn’t know I had. Kiddo at sixteen months of age was different to how he had been three months ago and I was overcome with a primal determination to find out why. Once a Mama goes primal- watch out! 

The answer that was slowly dawning on me was that autism had happened, or was happening. People have said things to me like ‘well, a Mother just knows’ and ‘you have a teaching degree, of course you knew what to look for.’

Both are incorrect. I didn’t ‘just know’. Infact I knew nothing about child development.  As for the teaching degree I had majored in social science and religion for high school aged teens. A world away from infants and their behavior. 

My formal counseling training in self awareness and self reflection was the one part of my educational background that helped me a lot on the road to a formal diagnosis. I had learned to examine my thought processes, record them and know that I could really trust them, and therefore trust myself.

I was going to rely heavily on this skill over the next few months as there would be many educated health professionals that would lead me to second guess myself. 

I would hear things like ‘lets just wait and see’ and ‘he is just being a boy’. Also ‘you are being an overly anxious first time mother’ and my personal favorite ‘your child does not have autism… If he has autism I will eat my hat’.

That assessment came from a medical doctor.

Well- That’s it! …. Just a small sound bite from the book. A short post I know- but I also needed a reason to share with you this gorgeous pic of Kiddo I took recently  Xx Kaz

Ps – have a great week !

 

Five Funny Things Kiddo said this week

My Kiddo says funny things a lot. I decided this week to write them down because i just don’t remember things otherwise. 

So here are the top five funnies of the week: 

1. Kiddo lays down on the bed next to his cat who is napping (as cats do).  Of course Kiddo is meant to be brushing his teeth. I hear him whisper to his cat Brobee (FYI- this name was bestowed on him by the cat haven where we adopted him) 

Kiddo: Brobee, you are like a beautiful black egg.

Me: an egg?!

Kiddo: ok maybe not an egg. Brobee, you are like a beautiful black rectangular prism.

Me: ok – lets go with that! 

2. Walking into Barnes and Noble together:

Me: I am feeling old today Kiddo. You have to walk slowly. I am tired. 

Kiddo: walk slowly?! what?!

Me: When people get older they have to walk slowly. Hey Kiddo- when I am super old will you take care of me and look after me?

Kiddo: Yes Mom- when you are 44 years old I will do this for you. I will take care of you. 

Me: perfect! 

3. Driving in the car with Hubby, Kiddo and me:

Kiddo: Dad, you are so strong, and you are so big, and you are so handsome, and you are so gorgeous! 

Dad: Hey, what about Mommy? 

Kiddo: Mom… Well she is just COMPLETELY NUTS! 

Dad and Kiddo crack up laughing. 

Me: you know I’m holding the two of you responsible for that. Just saying! 

4. Easter Sunday Church Kids Presentation to the Congregation. The kids are waiting to begin their song and there is a few weird crackles coming through the sound system. Everyone is quiet then from Kiddo in a loud voice:

‘What is that noise?!’ 

Nailed it Kiddo – it’s exactly what we were all thinking!

5. All four of us having morning cuddles in bed: me, dad, kiddo and baby sister:

Dad: we have a wonderful family. I love my family! 

Kiddo: we are a family. We are an autism family. (Cuddles for everyone).

Ps: a little update on my blog to book writing…I am in the thick of it now and it’s going well (insert hand clapping here!) I am looking for a couple of volunteer draft readers to give me feedback on the overall direction and vibe of what I have written so far. Please comment below if that’s you 🙂 otherwise comment anyway on your favorite funny line from Kiddo or something funny from a Kiddo you know and love xx

Blogging from A to Z 

I was inspired this morning after reading a post on Unstrange Mind and saw she has taken on the  ‘April 2015 Blogging from A to Z Challenge’ (see http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/ ).

The challenge this brave blogger has taken on for the entire month of April (except for Sunday’s) is to blog through the alphabet on autism- related topics to celebrate Autism Awareness Month. 

My contribution to the month and to April 2 which is Autism Awareness Day is to give you, the reader, a choice of some of my favorite autism blog posts to read. Your challenge is to pick just ONE to help increase awareness and acceptance of autism! I’ve picked some good ones! 

If you have time please share with me in the comments which one you read. I would love to know 🙂

Here are the posts I chose for you for Autism Awareness Day:

Autism and Oughtisms is a blog written by a mother who is also a lawyer. She can slice through the tough autism topics like nobody else. I hope she blogs forever. Read: https://autismandoughtisms.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/has-autism-versus-is-autistic-a-muddled-debate/

Sparrow Rose is a brilliant writer and an autistic adult. Read ‘A is for Acceptance ‘ on her blog: https://unstrangemind.wordpress.com

This is from Bec at Snagglebox. I share this post frequently. It can help save lives. http://www.snagglebox.com/article/autism-wandering

Jason writes about faith, his family and autism. Check this post out: http://www.jasonhague.com/2015/02/05/a-letter-to-my-autistic-son-on-his-9th-birthday/

I stumbled across Carrie Cariello more recently. This post is perfect about her take on what causes autism: http://carriecariello.com/2015/01/19/i-know-what-causes-autism/

Bacon and Juice Boxes is written by Jerry (aka Mr Bacon) and he is my kind of writer. As a parent he validates the struggle, gives dignity to his son and can also make you laugh out loud! Head over and read this from him- http://baconandjuiceboxes.blogspot.com/2014/12/whatever-it-takes.html

Last but not least – one from me about inclusion : ‘As I Held My Breath’ https://kazbrooksblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/serenity-courage-and-wisdom/comment-page-1

Love Kaz