Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sunday Blues

This weekend we had Merry's very first day of Sunday school, and it was a spectacular failure.

That statement has been heavily edited, because apparently I'm the kind of person who can't curse freely, even anonymously on the internet. But if you reread that line with a few choice words added back in, you get a more accurate scope of how bad it was. Or at least how bad it felt.

Church is always a challenging proposition for young kids, but when you add in verbal stimming and sound sensitivity things get really interesting. Luckily our parish is full of young families and is the kind of church that has no nursery on purpose, so some level of noise and wiggling is an accepted part of every service. 

I usually take Merry to the Sunday evening service, which has a praise and worship style band that heavily features piano, guitar, drums and choir. Merry's not only used to it, but seems to do better when we sit next to the band so he can watch all the action. On the other hand, the two morning services have more organ-heavy traditional music (my personal preference) and feature vocalists that pour on the volume and vibrato. This must be pretty hard for Merry, who acts up more whenever circumstances lead us to the morning services. The Gaffer is totally on board with Merry for this one, he says the featured singers are pretty hard on his ears too. (I hate to admit this because it feels like I'm insulting the musicians who grace our worship services with their talents. I love the music, suspect its a sensory thing.)

Unfortunately, guess when Sunday school is? Right in between the two morning services. I tried taking Merry to the early service, which he'd never been to and doesn't have quite as strong a vocalist, but whether it was the music or the change in routine we didn't manage to spend more than a minute in our seats before the fussing was too much even for our tolerant congregation. I bounced us back out to the narthex where we spent the rest of the service. Being out in the narthex means no books, no toys, no running around, lest little ones learn to prefer it to sitting in church and act out in order to leave the service. So Merry was bored, noisy and on edge for the next hour, after which we headed to the social hall.

The church has limited classroom space, so the younger kids are all in the large social hall--three different age groups. In separate classes. At the same time. And Merry was asking me to turn the lights off, so they must have been bugging him too. (light sensitivity is a new thing, I can't tell how much is actual discomfort and how much is a desire to be in control, but he was super unhappy either way) Anyone familiar with ASD is starting to realize what a perfect storm this built up to, and sure enough we only got halfway through before full meltdown set in and I had to grab our stuff and flee. 

So now I have to write an apology to his teacher and figure out a strategy going forward, ideas include:
  • Visual timer to help Merry keep track of how long he has left
  • Spending the hour before class letting him run around and play to burn off energy
  • Sat evening mass? Sun evening mass? Its a pain to make two separate trips, but might be necessary
  • Reserving the coveted W alphabet mat for Merry's use if he behaves for the first half of class (this was the breaking point, he was super excited to see the alphabet mats but another kid got to 'his' mat first and didn't want to trade)
  • Other reward system for good behavior
  • Ear plugs/muffs

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