It's always a challenge take the whole family to church on Sundays.
Isaac, aged 4, is not a problem. Joy, aged 2, is too sticky to be left alone in the church nursery.
And Faith, aged 6, needs supervision by one of us, or by our one of our helpers, or someone trained to deal with kids with autism. Although we have two domestic helpers, one would be on her Day Off that day.
So Isaac has been the only regular goer with us. Mommy wanted to change that, and suggested we try again on Sunday, to go as a full entourage.
We dropped Isaac off at his Sunday School, and asked the nursery if there was a way to accommodate Faith somehow. Our helper can manage both Joy and Faith at the same time, we said. And also, Faith has a passive manifestation of the condition and does not tantrum, hit others or herself. But we were told, sorry but Faith is too old to be placed with the small children, even with your maid's presence.
The volunteers suggested placing Faith in the older Sunday School class for her age group but we couldn't do that as the volunteers there were not trained to deal with special kids, and would not know how to deal with Faith's condition should she get overwhelmed by her surroundings, or needs her diaper changed.
In the end, the wife and I decided to take Faith with us to the service, knowing she will be okay for the first half, the worship, and knowing one of us will have to take her outside when the sermon started because she would be restless and noisy by then.
I understand the difficulty of accommodating families with special needs kids in a church that has to deal with hundreds of kids on a Sunday morning. But I could not help feeling sad.
When will Faith find her place in this society? When will she find her place in God's House? How do we plan to accept kids like her for who they are, in our families, in our communities, and in our places of worship?
Children with autism are not naughty uncontrollable kids, even if their behaviour is sometimes violent or disruptive. I should know, Faith came home from Special School a few days ago with bleeding bite marks on her left hand and her right forearm, courtesy of her more exuberant classmates. I just shrugged and said to the wife, we'll just have to tell the teachers to watch out for these moments and prevent them from happening. Her classmates who bit her did not mean to do it. Their sensory difficulties and communication problems can lead to these inappropriate social responses.
And you cannot tell from their faces either, that they are children with a very serious condition.
Kids with autism are kids who very often inhabit their own world with its own set of rules and its own sensory reality. But that does not mean our "normal" world should leave them there.
I held her in the worship service, singing the songs, clapping her hands, and I felt torn between the joy of worshipping with my daughter, and heartbroken that she was here because she had no where to go.
"Look there below, see the child
Trembling by her father's side
Now I can tell You why
She is why You must die"
-"Why" from the album "This Mystery", by Nichole Nordeman