Monday, July 16, 2012

Both Sides of the Door

She took a breath, looked at her son across the room and asked, "Is this a class for kids with special needs?"

When everybody comes, we have 8 kids in our Sunday school class. Six of them are boys, all with autism. One of the kids has been coming for almost a year and his dad brings him each week. His son, A, has adapted well to our class and is making friends with the other boys.

A few weeks ago mom brought him to church. As they came to the door, mom asked why A was in this room. Why wasn't he in his regular classroom? I was caught off guard and stumbled over my words. I tried to explain that our room allowed for more one on one interaction with the kids. She said she wanted her son to be with a lot of other kids and I told her that her son had made friends in here.

She said she wanted her son in worship time with the large group and I mentioned that we occasionally go to worship. She said our class wasn't acceptable and she took her son out.

I was stunned and way out of my element. That afternoon I confessed to the Lord, "I have no idea what I'm doing!!"

Then I saw myself standing at the door of Beth's classroom when she was in school. I didn't like the classroom the school had put her in. I wanted more for her. I fought for Beth to have what was best for her. That's all A's mom was doing. She was just fighting for him.

She wasn't being difficult. She was fighting for her son. The exact same place I'd been in so many times in my life. I've stood on that side of the door and asked those same questions.

I saw myself on both sides of that door. Wanting to explain how her son was thriving in our class yet knowing she wanted so much more for him. Her mother's heart was stunned to learn we had placed her son in a class for kids with special needs. She stood there, shocked at this new revelation.

They're from another country and English is their second language. It's difficult to communicate with them and I don't know what their home life is like. I felt for her though. I had flashbacks to when I was standing at the door talking with the teacher. Yet here I was, the teacher, trying to explain our decision to place him here.

For a couple of weeks, mom brought him to worship and sat with him in the other class. Because of my interaction with her, I knew I wanted to make some changes in our room. So yesterday when his dad dropped him off, I remembered his moms heart. I took him into worship. We arrived a few minutes early and hung out in the main room with the other kids. There were probably 50 kids playing foosball, doing puzzles and A just walked back and forth by himself. He didn't talk to anyone and no one talked to him.

During worship he sat by himself and didn't sing. Part way through, one of our teachers and a few of the other kids from our class came in and after worship the 5 of us left. As we walked down the hallway, one of the boys J, put his arm around A and they walked together to our class.


Becky said...

I have to say I agree with the mom on this one. You know so well how we fight so hard to have our kids not only included in the classroom, but in life..the restrictive classroom over the years has created a wall, one which needs to be broken down. If we segregate them, then others will too. I know our kids with special needs may need more attention, more one on one, but time and time again it has been proven it can be done among their typical peers, and it is a win-win for all. The one place I am find it easiest so far, and most welcoming, is at church. I know you are truly what you think is best in your heart, and I do not know how your church works at all. All I can is speak from heart of how I might have felt...and I know I would want Kristen among her typical peers worshipping with them too. Thanks for posting this and putting it out there. I pray my words come across in a constructive way too...

Becky said...

Okay, and my typos above are out of control in my last comment. I was going to proofread but it just posted it. I should have said self contained and not restrictive too. I felt bad after I posted it too because I do not want to sound mean or judgmental of all the good you are doing at your church for those kids. I know God will guide you to provide in the best way for all at your church. Just truly felt I needed to throw out my two cents for whatever it was worth because I feel so passionately about inclusion in every aspect of life.

Nan said...

I love the way you are able to be on both sides of the door. I love the way arms hold one another. However, I too wonder . . . its not the wanting "more" (because that would be communicating that those with special needs are less, which they aren't), but isn't it about, especially from a Christian point of view?, being healed from what separates us from our community and from God? .... and what separates us is not our disability (or blindness, or difference or whatever), but rather our loneliness. . . . and what about the gifts of including? I believe that communities, especially faith communities, are enriched by struggling with how to make a place for ALL. For ALL are welcome at the table, I don't think there was a separate table for anyone. . . . This doesn't mean that having a separate space or a unique way to share God's word and love is wrong, but rather that the struggle to include, to welcome, to allow us ALL to be enriched by each other's gifts is a fine one! We do need to ask questions (as you do) and your willingness to think about this and to ask a questions and to reframe the experience is wonderful and courageous.

JC said...

What I loved most about this post is when you said "I remembered his Moms heart"...And you took the boy in to Worship...That shows what a loving person you are.

I realize that this little boy probably found the most acceptance and was more comfortable in the one room because people understood him there and were more welcoming...But then at the same time I do not like kids with disabilities being segregated like that...I never want that for Russell...And the only way for others to stop looking at our kids as though they were so very different is if they are around them more and doing things with them.

I loved this post, lot's to think about, and you have a unique perspective that some of us don't yet, so I value everything you say.

ckbrylliant said...

This is a tough situation. I hope that you all can find a common ground that works best for A.