Our Church Does/Doesn't Work (Sensory Overload)

(Posted June 7th 2016 @ 7:25 PM by: Melody Reever)

Our Church Does/Doesn't Work (Sensory Overload)

Sometimes it feels like we live in two worlds. In the first world, our church doesn't work for our child.

He wears noise cancelling headphones every time we approach the building. The sound of someone worshiping loudly, of emphatic preaching, of loud amens or music above ninety decibels causes my child to panic. He sees someone running around the church as threatening as a black bear heading his way. He starts to cry and simply wants to flee. It is his body's natural "fight or flight" reaction. 

From the very moment Timothy was born, his senses were easily overwhelmed. When he was two and a half, he was diagnosed with autism and shortly after that, we learned the genetic reason for his diagnosis—Fragile X. As I tell his peers at school, he has superhero senses. As a result, his brain doesn't respond to things in a typical manner. As you can imagine, all of the things that most people are thrilled to experience during a church service, we would dread. And we have spent many years out of the sanctuary, often in a nursery or Sunday school room.

In the second world, our church works for our child. 

Timothy is now ten years old and loves to jump, raise his hands, and worship God. We sit at the back of the sanctuary in a relatively soundproof room with a window which allows us to see all of the action from a safe distance. We use a baby monitor so we can control the volume of the service. And if you happen to turn around in the middle of song service, you will not see a better example of a worshiper.

Stephanie Gossard attends church at New Life Center in Bridgeton, Missouri, with her husband, Everett and son, Timothy. In her spare time, she edits the ABLE newsletter.

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