And here's the thing.....you may have read Difficulties At Church & thought, "Ethan sounds just like my kid. Sounds like he's just being a typical kid!" And your absolutely right....lots of kiddos have separation anxiety, bite, push, cry, etc. So, what the difference? Ethan has been diagnosed with autism.....that's the difference. Ethan has an actual disability that makes living in our world tough on him & generally scary & confusing. The way to typically calm a child or reason with a kiddo who is upset generally doesn't work with Ethan. It's harder to calm him, to reassure him, to reason with him. Much harder.
You may say, "Well, Jessica, he's your only child. How do you know that it's harder?" Because I was a teacher & worked with kids. I also have a large family with kiddos....a few of which I babysit. There is a difference. Spend anytime with Ethan, and you know that he is different. And working with him in an environment that makes him uncomfortable is challenging....to say the least. But as Dr. Temple Grandin says, "I'm different....NOT less."
Different. Not less.
I love that. Ethan has autism, but he is not any less than any other person. He just learns differently, communicates differently, has a different sense of humor (which I totally get, by the way), plays differently.....and we need to adapt our world in order to include him. Wouldn't it be great if we bent a little for those with special needs? I think we can adapt a bit because those living with disabilities adapt a whole lot just to be a part of this world. Let's meet 'em half way!
And their families! Let's be less critical & meet them halfway as well! Shoot! I think we should do this with EVERYONE we meet! We have no idea what people are dealing with or going through! Wouldn't it be great if we were all a little less critical & a lot more compassionate?! A little less judgemental & a lot more understanding?!?! That would be GREAT! (Alright...I'll get off my soapbox.)
I feel like the church we currently are attending has volunteers that EXCEED all expectations when it comes to meeting us in the middle. They are willing to work with us & with Ethan. They genuinely love & care for Ethan, and they want him to know & love Jesus just as much as we do!
So.....praying over my list......the answer is clear. We are to stay at our home church. Is it perfect? No. Do you know of a perfect church? I sure don't. But God is moving at our church. God has blessed our church with amazing folks, and I want to be a part of what is going on there. One of my prayers for Ethan is that he may one day experience the Holy Spirit, and I feel that there is a high chance for that to occur at our church. God is all over that place.
My fears & feelings....feeling like a burden, fearing a meltdown in church, worrying something may set him off.......God needs to help me with work through that. That is my issue, and I don't want to pass that on to Ethan. I don't want to hold my son back because of my fears. I believe that Ethan can do anything....I really do. And I will be so mad at myself if I am the cause of hindering his path.
This blog helps me to work through things.......it's my free therapy. And what I'm realizing through writing Difficulties At Church is that there are 2 things going on.....Ethan's story & my story. In future posts, I will be sharing how God is moving in me & helping me through some of these issues. I always envisioned my family as the consistent family who came to every service & volunteered at most events. But that is not my reality, and that has cause me great heartbreak as well as judgement from a few that I have called my friends. Only God can heal this heartache, and I will be blogging that journey as it unfolds.
As far as Ethan's story......I smile just thinking about it. He really has overcome so much already, and he has endless possibilities open to him. God created him just the way he is, and I know that God has amazing things in store for him.....if only Ethan's parents would get out of the way. :0)
If you have ever met our Ethan or feel that you know him through my writings, you know that being around Ethan is being around pure joy. He has a pureness & innocence about him, and there is no other word to describe him. Ethan is JOY. He has something special, and I'm not talking about autism. He has a God-given gift that he automatically shares with everyone he meets. And, I think it's time for Ethan's parents to get out of His way, and let God's plan for Ethan unfold.
I recently watched a video, and a kiddo was wearing a shirt that said, "My team loves me. Autism will not stop me." I love that show of support from those in his life. But since I saw that shirt while writing Difficulties At Church, it made me smile because what I heard.....in a still small voice.......was........
My Jesus Loves Me. Autism Will Not Stop Me.