Earlier this year I was asked to help at a MOPS (Mothers of PreSchoolers) program that meets at our church. MOPS reaches out to young moms and gives them a break away from their kids for a couple of hours. They have breakfast, do crafts (really nice, adult, hang-in-the-living-room-worthy crafts!) and spend time talking with other young moms.
A few months into it, I was asked if I could come and help out with MOPPETS. That's the childcare that happens while MOPS is meeting. There's a 4 year old boy M, who has autism and he's becoming too much for the teachers. The class he's in has 13-15 kids and the teachers are struggling to teach and try to help M at the same time. Poor mom was being called out of MOPS time after time because he was throwing tantrums and screaming and sending the rest of the class into chaos. They didn't know what else to do so could I come help and be a one-on-one with M?
So back in January I began helping in the classroom, assisting M when needed. He wears headphones to help lessen the noise, but he still would become overwhelmed when the noise level escalated. I was able to take him to our sensory classroom, where he would instantly relax, quiet down and begin to play with the various toys. After a few minutes, we'd head back.
Every other week for the last 6 months, M and I would discover new toys, read about bears and practice playing with other kids. When M was alone, he was an absolute doll, but put him with other kids and his senses just became so overwhelmed he would have a melt down. That's when I stepped him, removed him from class for a few minutes and allowed him to take a breath and relax.
Each week he became more tolerant of the noise level and he stayed in the classroom for longer periods of time. I absolutely LOVED watching him grow and expand his ability to handle stressful situations. Mom would come to pick him up and with tears in her eyes, thank me for allowing her to stay for the whole meeting. One time she told me that M was such a handful at home and she didn't get out much other than MOPS so she looked forward to it every time they'd meet. I could tell she was so overwhelmed with caring for him.
A few times I had to go get her due to a poopy diaper and as we would walk into the room, her face would sink, her smile would disappear and she would look at me like I had punched her in the gut. Then I would tell her that he just needed a change and her face would brighten and she would bounce up from her chair, "Oh! Let me grab my bag!" As they'd come out of the bathroom, he would pull away from her and run back to me, "Let's go see my friends!" A smile would spread across her face and she'd head back to her friends!
I'll tell you, it was exhausting, but I loved doing it so much!! Seeing him change and knowing mom was getting a break, it really did something in my heart.
(This is what I'm supposed to do with my life. Not just MOPPETS, but for families. The Lord has put such a desire in my heart for families with children who have special needs. Specifically those at our church. We not only need to minister to the kids, but also to their parents. We need to offer them friendship, time away, and peace of mind. We need to let them know they are loved and that they're not alone on this journey. This has become such a passion for me and I know I'm e-x-a-c-t-l-y where the Lord wants me.)
Well, Monday was the last MOPS meeting for this year and as mom came to get M, she thanked me again, for allowing her this chance to rest and be with other moms. M was trying to squirm from her grasp and becoming frantic that he didn't have his papers and craft from our class. His voice was getting louder as mom tried to tell him that she had everything and it was time to go. I reached into her bag and pulled out his papers, "See M? Mom has them! It's okay to go home now." He immediately calmed down and got into the back of the stroller. (His baby sister was in the front.)
With tears in her eyes, she looked back at me and said their family was moving to another state. (I had wondered if he would be back next year.) I told her I would miss them and she said, "Yea, now he will be someone elses..." and she paused.
I said, "Joy. He will be someone else's joy."
She pursed her lips and nodded yes, but she didn't say anything more.
With that, she turned and the three of them headed down the hallway to the elevator.