Runs With Scissors – In Church

We are trying to transition Rhema to Children’s Church. It has not been so easy.

The husband and I have been taking turns being in Children’s Church with her until we’re confident she can handle being there with a volunteer.

The children are excused from the sanctuary to go to Children’s Church midway though the regular service. In the main service, our challenge has been to keep Rhema:
1) seated (she prefers to hurdle the pews)
2) quiet (she prefers to “wail” during prayer time and Scripture reading)
3) still (she prefers to color in all the hymnals… and then rip the pages)

This past Sunday, all attempts to keep her in the regular service were aborted after oh, say, two minutes. It was nowhere near time for Children’s Church (which has its own set of challenges), so I led her up a staircase that is just off the side of the sanctuary.

Upstairs we found an empty classroom, and Rhema busied herself with sitting in each chair one at a time. After a while, she noticed a cupboard and discovered crayons and paper. She enjoyed coloring, and I enjoyed watching her. At one point, she crumbled her paper and ran over to a small trash can. “Throwawayyyy. Throwaway.” She mimicked in the voice of one of her therapists. I was thrilled!

I was having such a good time just being with her that I decided we would skip Children’s Church. Bad mama.

Next she discovered a basket of about 30 kid-sized scissors with multi-colored handles. She’s been working with scissors at school, and so she was all too happy to cut up paper with the scissors. Only, of course, she had to try out each pair of scissors.

Just when I was thinking, Wow, this worked out perfect! I’m getting some great alone time with Rhema!, she suddenly took off out of the classroom with a pair of scissors still in hers hand. Down the stairs she flew.

I knew I had to catch her, because communion was in progress. I could see her lighting into the sanctuary, sprinting down the aisle, making a bee-line for the pulpit. There she would gleefully jump up and down, up and down, in the pastor’s cushiony chair.

On her way down the stairs, the scissors fell mercifully from her hand and clattered on the floor. Just at the bottom of the stairs, I tackled her. The side doors to the sanctuary were wide open. Many people, in the midst of their communion wafers and grape juice, witnessed me sack my child like Mike Singletary. (Only I had a skirt on).

I scooped up my girl and carried her upstairs. Phew.

We played with the water in a sink in the bathroom until church was over.

Next week it’s the husband’s turn!

Oh yeah, any suggestions on how we can manage church better?

9 thoughts on “Runs With Scissors – In Church

  1. oh my gosh .. i love the image of you flying after her ..

    here’s what we’ve done, to mixed success:

    we’ve used laminated boardmaker pictures that her therapists at school made for church .. ‘sit’ ‘quiet’ ‘color’ etc

    we wrote and read a social story describing the order of service in simple terms, creating basically a schedule .. go in and sit, color quietly in the pew (HUGE! crayons and paper in the pew make a HAPPY girl), hear the singing, listen to the pastor, then off to CE with mama, then coffee hour (which means treats!).

    i still stay with her for class, though we are looking into getting an aide so that I can actually attend worship once in a while (what a concept!). in the meantime, though, one of k’s former therapists had some great suggestions ..

    an erasable white board for class. use it to write the schedule of activites. ours is generally the same format – attendance, bible story, game (which she has never really been able to fully participate in, but we try), prayer circle (where she tries to sing happy birthday and blow out the prayer candle) and then a craft, which is always K’s favorite because no matter what it’s supposed to be, she turns it into coloring time. you can draw pictures that signify each activity and then erase them or scratch them out as they are completed.

    a more sophisticated version would be the picture schedule strip .. laminate pictures for each activity and velcro them to a strip. you or rhema can pull of each picture when the activity is done. always good, especially if that’s the system she uses at school, but i love the white board because it’s so versatile.

    something else that is helpful to kendall when she has to sit is a visual counter. we often write the numbers 10 down to one on paper (or white board!) and then cross them off, say every minute and a half if we have to sit in the sanctuary for 15 minutes. i’ll draw a picture of her sitting (i do stick figures, but she gets it) in the beginning and then a picture of her standing up at the 1. when she’s sitting nicely (or close enough) we scratch off a number. she sees that she gets closer and closer to standing up. it helps at dinner too.

    did that make sense at all? i feel like it was really confusing. please don’t hesitate to e-mail me!

  2. Oh, Jeneil! What wonderful pictures you paint with your words.

    I will pray over this for you and for Rhema.

    I have several fun (?!) stories from Katy’s younger days in church. One in particular comes to mind this morning, when Katy was about three years old.

    Katy (who, as you know, has not struggled with autism) did not like to be separated from us, so we did not take her to Children’s Church. She sat with us for the entire worship service (with coloring books, crayons, Goldfish crackers, sippy cups, and everything else that I could think of!).

    We usually sat in the back because … 1) my husband is 6’6″ and he is sensitive about blocking the view of others … and 2) we thought we’d be less distracting with Katy in the back of the church.

    Our pastor suggested, though, that Katy might become more engaged and interested in the service if we sat near the front.

    So we did. And, during communion, Katy stood up and shouted with delight, “Look! Pastor Tim is fixing us a snack!”

    Then, for our closing hymn, “He is Exalted”, she sang at the top of her little lungs: “He is EXHAUSTED. The King is EXHAUSTED, and I will praise Him!”

    He wasn’t the only One who was exhausted … 🙂

  3. jess – thanks so much for the suggestions. i think i definitely need to bring more things to entertain her while she’s in the service. and she does use a picture schedule at school, so i will try to implement that at church. i love the idea of a social story or a visual counter… probably the biggest challenge with her is that her receptive language is still so low that i’m not sure she would follow or understand the associations. but i’m going to give it a try anyway – eventually she just may get it.

    kathryn – thanks for the katy stories. those are hilarious! LOL!

  4. OK, the Mike Singletary in a skirt image is crackin’ me up here!

    I don’t have any sophisticated wonderful suggestions like Jess — but one thing we do with Joy’s church classroom is take along a plastic doorknob cover to use for the duration!

    Limits the need for the tackle and all that… Or does Rhema know the trick to defeating the doorknob covers?

  5. The visual of you tackling her is cracking me up, LOL. Mostly because I have been there too, and just a smidgen because I am so relieved to see that someone ELSE has been there :).

    Tackling, wrestling, trying to catch a lightning-fast boy as he runs by without clotheslining him, all of the above… check.

    Unfortunately I don’t have too many suggestions, church is something we’ve been struggling with for years (we go every week but we have spent more time in the halls or outside than inside where we’re supposed to be on many a Sunday). Sometimes we have found an empty classroom to hang out in like you did and that actually works pretty well. At least it allows a minute to breathe and rest from chasing. We’ve been known to duct tape the light switches at church and we try to avoid the water fountain…

    Some things that have helped for us, at least some of the time:
    – while taking a walk, look for numbers (on doors or wherever else) or find things to count. Counting is soothing for my sons
    – have lots of snacks (but those only last so long)
    – paper, pencils, crayons, Color Wonder markers & paper (works for Bitty, never worked for CB & BH until they were 6)
    – books (usually doesn’t last long but a stack might be worth a few min of quiet). keep a separate stash of books for church so they are “new” and not ones she’s been looking at all week
    – depending on what time church is, a little exercise before they go

  6. Hi there, I am Brandon’s West Point classmate, and Pam Long’s “sister”….she informed me of your site, and I have been moved to tears and laughter many times.

    I am humbled, because my oldest has ADHD, a challenge yes, but I have been easily frustrated and lacked patience many, many times with her. She will be 7 in April.

    I laughed upon reading this post as I specifically rememberd pulling her out of church one Sunday and her SCREAMING caused the entire congregation (it’s a small church- maybe 100 people) to turn and stare.

    I kept asking myself, how could I have been an Army officer, and command and led so many soldiers, yet I can’t get my 2 year old to color quietly during service. She was constantly talking and has yet to acquire the ability to sit still for more that 9 seconds. We joined a larger church with a children’s program, she started on medication and my depression began to lift. Over time, I’m learning to be less rigid and enjoy the freedom and zest with which she embraces life. I also realized God was working on my definate lack of patience to help me grow in grace and mercy.

    For the first time in four years, she colored on her own for 15 minutes without interrupting me by running into a wall, screaming with frustration about the marker lid not working, or setting the house on fire (okay, an overstatement). My husband timed it, it was once every 3 minutes from 6 AM until 7PM, every day.

    I praise God at how you allow yourself to be the clay, so willingly molded in His hands. I praise Him that you are open to His will. And I am so thankful His darling Rhema, was given to a mommy and daddy who understand what an amazing blessing she is.

    I will lift you up in prayer. I am humbled by your faith, hope, and love….yet what a witness you are to the greatest of these…

    As I began to submit this, I was overwhelmed by the need to ask if you’ve felt led to write a book. A Christian book on the struggles, challenges, triumphs, and hope of your family. You have a writer’s gift…I feel led to encourage you in this pursuit at some point along your journey.

    In Him,

  7. Pingback: Spiritual Winds « Autism In a Word

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