Autistic boy banned from church

You know, I wasn’t even going to blog about this because I don’t know what I think.  I know what I think but I don’t know how I feel is my problem.  It was on The View earlier this week which is the only reason I thought, “what the heck.”  On one hand, I find this very upsetting for this family.  All they want to do it go to church with their family.  On the other hand, I know how it is when your in church and there is such a distraction like this.  My granddaughter recently had her first communion and there was a baby who screamed cried off and on during most of the service.  Even the priest gave a “dirty look” in that direction.  It was hard to hear him and it was hard to pay attention.  This was a once in a lifetime thing for my granddaughter and even to watch the video later, all you would hear is that baby screaming crying.  I kept thinking, why doesn’t someone take that baby out of the service.

But this, it’s hard.  But I feel you have to think of everyone else and someone has already been hurt.  It’s not on purpose but none the less, it is a little scary.  Here’s the video so watch it yourself Autistic boy banned from church 

First of all, I may be very naive, I don’t know much about this.  But I do know when I’m afraid and I might be afraid of this.  This boy is as big if not bigger than most men I know.  The mother said that one of the only ways they know to calm him down is for them to all sit on him.  That alone, in church,  would scare me and I’m sure it would scare many others and then does that not take away the “going to church” from everyone else that is there?

The mother also stated that she was going to ignore the restraining order and go anyway but there were deputies waiting at the end of their driveway and she would have been arrested.  Now the mother claims they will just go to another church.  The church in question has made many other offers such as having a camera in another area where the boy could watch.  This family wants nothing to do with that. 

I’m not quite sure but it sounds a little bit selfish to me on the part of this family.  You do have to think of the safety of everyone and not just the feelings of one person. 

What do you think about this??

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12 Responses to Autistic boy banned from church

  1. beenthere says:

    First, I want to say that I am a member of the church in question, so I do have a somewhat informed idea of the situation… perhaps more than others in our church, in fact.

    The church has been very open with this family for over ten years. However, as Adam has been entering puberty, his behaviors have become more aggressive and violent. He is not willfully lashing out at people, and he is not ALWAYS violent, but his parents are not able to control him (even with the help of their other teenage son). The family rejected the offer of making the community crying room their own space (it has a large mirror looking out into the main body of the church as the room is just behind the pew that has been reserved for the family for many years). If you do any research, you can easily find information on what you can expect from a severely autistic child entering puberty.

    Also, their are a couple of news segments that do a decent job of presenting the church community’s perspective… one from our local ABC affiliate, one from our diocesan paper (Saint Cloud Visitor). Sadly, I have not been able to find either online to share the link. I don’t understand why they have not been broadcast along with Mrs. Race’s version, but it would certainly be a good thing to hear both sides…

  2. Joy says:

    I am so very happy that you made this comment beenthere. Like I said, I feel so much for both sides.

  3. SKL says:

    This is a tough one! I have not been in church with this young man, but I am sure there are two sides to the story. My cousin is severely autistic, and I would be surprised if his mother ever took him to church. He was just too unpredictable and didn’t really know what he was doing. Because he often stiffened his body, he was extremely muscular and strong for his age. Think of the biggest “handful” of a boy you’ve ever known, and multiply that by about 20, and you have my cousin. When he was a teen, something freaked him out and he beat up an old lady whom he loved dearly, putting her into a hospital. He really had no idea what he was doing and felt very sad later when he realized she’d been hurt. So, in short, some teens with autism can be a significant danger to others at times, as well as a distraction.

    On the other hand, we want to use Jesus’ life as an example of how we treat people, in a church of all places. Jesus didn’t shun people with “demons” and “fits,” but touched them and showed compassion. He said he hadn’t come for the benefit of those who were well, but for those who were unwell. One would hope a church would not block an unwell person from hearing God’s word, even if it appears he doesn’t understand it.

    I hope the church is doing its best to accommodate this family, yet I can’t see allowing this boy to potentially harm others in church. If it was just a distraction (short of completely drowning out the sermon), I’d say churchgoers should remember what a church is for and show some compassion. But when it comes to safety, that’s where I’d have to draw the line. I think this family should be willing to listen to the sermon in another room unless and until the boy learns to control his impulses around other people.

    But you are right, it’s sad no matter how it comes out.

  4. beenthere says:

    SKL – sadly, I have not yet experienced the gift of healing that Christ has. However, my father is also a member of this parish and suggested a healing Mass for Adam with a laying on of hands. The family said that it would be too radically different from their routine – and as we all know, routine is very important to autistic persons.

  5. nikki says:

    Wow! I’m not sure if I even have the knowledge about this to even have a clear opinion on this one. I do feel for this boy and his parents, I can’t imagine how hard it is to deal with a child with autism. I see a few kids at my son’s school and I know just from that you need a lot of patience. God did create all of us and this family does deserve to go to church. However I don’t see the problem in the family using the community crying room for their service. It would be fair to everyone else and more important it would be more fair to the boy. I’m glad that someone from the actual church was able to make a comment and give us some more information about this situation. It’s really too bad it has come this far…restraining orders!? I guess the church felt it had no other choice. I hope all parties can come to an understanding.

  6. Joy says:

    We also live very near this church and when it came on the news last week my husband and I just looked at each other like, oh no, this is tough. I wasn’t going to write about it until I saw it on The View. I couldn’t believe they were talking about MN on The View. I think it’s sad on every side and am glad that “benethere” has written to tell us the way it really is.

    While I do feel so much for this family, I do think you have to think of everyone involved and not just the family in question but “all” the families in the church. That’s what makes this so two sided to me.

  7. Melanie, Bobby's mom says:

    I have a 4 1/2 year old son with moderate autism, and he’s very very strong and big for his age. I am a relatively small woman. For that reason, I don’t take him into church services unless my husband (who usually sings in the choir) and our close friends will be sitting with us, so it’s all hands on deck! Bobby goes to Sunday School, instead, and is reasonably well-behaved there. I honestly don’t want to spend my worship time dealing with a bored, wiggly child who doesn’t understand the service and can’t sit still yet, so there’s no point in him being in “big church,” as his presence would also disturb others for no good reason. And my thought process would be the same even if he didn’t have autism. That’s why we have nurseries, cry rooms and Sunday School. I wonder why the “cry room” compromise was not accepted by the family? Personally, that would be my preference as a parent to avoid the stress of containing a noisy child.

    Having said that, I do feel for the family’s situation. Managing a big strong kid is very very hard now, and I’m not sure how I’ll deal with that once my boy is bigger than me and has pre-pubescent hormones swarming through his body. Hopefully his comprehension of acceptable social behavior will have advanced by then, so I won’t have to manhandle him like the new stories say this family has to do. I can’t even imagine that…

  8. Sue says:

    I don’t know what the “right” answer to this situation is, but it sounds like the church has tried to work with the family and offer all options available. Everyone has the right to worship, but everyone also has the right to worship in an environment that is safe and promotes spiritual growth and learning. Hats off to beenthere for sharing their thoughts and giving us more understanding of the situation.

  9. tessa says:

    I agree that the family lacks understanding of the churches decision. They need to understand that it is either the boy doesn’t fully benefit or many others who are distracted by the boy don’t fully benefit from the service. They both deserve equal, but the majority out weighs one.

    They should accept an alternative for the boy, so the rest of the church members can enjoy and be at peace during service.

  10. chb says:

    This is morally wrong. No matter how old the child look or is. The child is autistic. Therefore, the child could be 18 and have the mind of a 6 year old or younger. People come to church to get help. How did this congregation help this family? By kicking them out, may have altered their feelings about going to church. The bible tells us to have patience and compassion. I don’t feel that either one of these where shown in this case. Most of all the Bible says to have charity(love) for one another. Now is it love to ban an entire family from church? Certainly not! What if God had been like the people of this church? What if God says we can’t get into the kingdom of heaven because we talk to loud or we don’t have patience or not of the other fruit of the spirit? How would you feel then? This boy cannot help that he has this problem. If he could, I am sure that he would change it in a heartbeat. People that do not understand autism seem to sneer at those that have this problem. Spank the child or discipline the child. No matter how much you spank or punish the child still have a problem. BE MORE CONSIDERATE OF OTHERS ONE DAY IT MIGHT BE YOU!!!

  11. Joy says:

    Chb, this church did not immediately “kick” this child out of church. They offered many suggestions. The point I was trying to make is there are hundreds of other people at church who have the right to devotion and learning. This boy doesn’t even know he’s in church. I think the mother had an agenda to be honest with you. Also, Jesus said “bring the little children to me” but couldn’t that boy have heard the service from another room? All the other children are in Sunday school or in the cry room. We’ve all had to go there but didn’t complain. You can’t say the cry room is for babies and yet call this boy an 18 year old but with the mind of a 6 year old. Which is it? You sound very angry but did your see what another member of the church in question had to say? I still believe you have to think of everyone in church and not just one person who is as big and strong as a linebacker. What if an elderly person or a small child was in his way if he had an “episode?”

  12. nikki says:

    Well said Joy. The church did offer other options and the family refused. The church was thinking about everyone not just the boy and not just the other members of the church. That mother was only thinking about her family and no one else. That is not fair. I think this mother was out looking for a conflict. Why would she put him in front of the media and make a big deal out of it. If church is SO important to her then why does it matter if she’s with the rest of the members or in a separate room. Both ways she’s getting a service out of it right????

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