One of the difficulties in parenting a high needs child is getting to church on a consistent basis. Princess used to have meltdowns on Sunday mornings or just would have a difficult time overall. I found out this year that her 2nd grade Sunday School teacher just let her crawl around under the table most of the hour. He let her do that rather than having to deal with a non compliant child. After Princess had a major meltdown at church in October, her teacher gave my phone number to our Disabilities Ministry Director. This wonderful lady worked with me to come up with a plan for Sunday mornings.
We met with another young lady to talk about Princess and to brainstorm creative ways to make Sunday School a more successful place for Princess and her classmates. In the end we decided it was best to have a 1:1 aide (We call her a shadow.) The plan is pretty comprehensive. I will say it's like having an IEP only better because they gave me everything I asked for and more. We came up with a chart with target behaviors so that Princess could earn stickers for making good choices. We figured out where she could go to calm down if the morning was just too stimulating for her. It was decided that I would pack a snack and some water Sunday mornings since Princess can get really hungry or really thirsty. The aide will take my daughter on breaks if she needs them. She even brings gum as an incentive for Princess to earn at the end of the hour if she needs it.
The aide could not attend our meeting so she and I talked at length over the phone before the first Sunday morning launch of our new plan. She was fully on board and wanted to do whatever it took to help Princess navigate the waters of Sunday mornings. I was asked to call her or the young lady in charge of placing the aides in the rooms if we were not going to make it on a given Sunday. I was told I could even call right up to the minute before class was to start. The aide has told me that it was no big deal if we didn't know until the last minute because she would just find another place to serve for that given morning.
I will say that the plan has had a few kinks to work out. Satan did not want us to succeed. (I personally think he is afraid of Princess. He's afraid because he knows that this is a child with a super big heart who loves God so very much.) Once we got the kinks worked out, the ship has sailed very smoothly.
Over time going to church on Sunday mornings has become the norm not the exception. I don't think we have missed a Sunday in about four months. It's funny because Princess wasn't supposed to know about her aide. We were kind of doing it on the sly but she is so smart that she quickly figured it out. She's a quirky kid because she has this intense love/ hate relationship with her aide. There are many times when she wants nothing to do with the aide. She will even growl at her. Then there are other times when Princess wants to give her aide a hug.
The aide for her part just rolls with it. It is so nice because she really tries to tell me at least one positive thing that Princess did that morning. This past week she did two things that I thought were pretty amazing. She was the only one out of about 40 kids who knew the previous week's bible story. She was asked to come to the front of the class and tell it. According to the aide she even knew the little details. Pretty impressive for a child who appears not to be paying attention most of the time. She also volunteered to say a prayer near the end of the lesson before the students went back into their small groups. This just makes my heart sing.
Since Princess is going to Sunday School on a regular basis we are seeing other fruits as well. She donated a whole roll of quarters for their current missions project. This is money that she either earned or got from the Tooth Fairy. She is eager to learn bible verses. I will say candy is a great motivator for the verses. She has made another friend who has an aide like her. These are great accomplishments for her. My husband and I are so proud of her.
My proudest moment came this past Sunday on the way to church. The radio announcer was hawking a dating site. He said that choosing who you will marry is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. I turned off the radio and asked " What is the most important decision you will ever make?" My daughter replied "Following God." I almost cried tears of joy right there. She gets it. Between church and home, my daughter is making the connection that God is number one in her life.
One very cool way that I could see God's hand in all of this is who He chose to be Princess's aide. My husband was her son's basketball coach over 10 years ago. She feels like helping Princess is a way to pay it forward. Her weekday job is as an OT working with kiddos like my daughter so nothing that Princess does phases her. I feel so blessed.
My church is just another part of our village that is helping my husband and I to raise Princess.
Here's a link to my church, EV Free Fullerton. Here's more information about Disabilities Ministry at EV Free.