Sunday, December 18, 2011
Church for the WHOLE Family
When you have a child with special needs, it's really hard to feel like you fit in anywhere. You want to do things as a family, just like other families do, but often times when you go out you feel judged, or looked down upon.
For example, when JD is having a bad day and is laying on the floor throwing a tantrum, it's really hard for me to ignore the stares from parents across the room wondering why my four-year-old is acting like a two-year-old. Sadly enough, it's really kept me and Jason from going out and doing things that we really want to do.
One of those things is attending church. We've gone a few times in the past, but the anxiety I would get about it made it such a miserable experience. Dropping JD off in a large Sunday school room with people he doesn't know (and who don't necessarily understand him or his needs) really freaked me out. The crowds, the loud noises, the lack of routine - it all gave me sensory overload so I can't even imagine what it did it him. But today was very different.
About a week ago I was online looking for churches with special needs ministries. Jason and I wanted to find somewhere where our WHOLE family fit in - not just me and him, and our two "neurotypical" kids - but somewhere that would accept and welcome JD as well. I looked at the First Baptist Orlando website and found a program called "Special Friends." It's for children and adults with special needs. They even have a special sensory room! I reached out to their program director, Michael Woods, this week and he was extremely welcoming, so today we gave it a try.
What a success! All three of my kids enjoyed their time there, and JD was in a small classroom with teachers who understood him and made me feel comfortable leaving him with them. Jason and I spent an hour relaxing, and worshipping together, and when we left we both were amazed at how great the experience was.
I'm really thankful that there are programs like this in our community because there are so many families just like ours that have the same need. Our family motto is, "We do things together" and the Special Friends program allowed us to do just that!
If you want more information about the Special Friend program, visit their website at http://www.firstorlando.com/Adults/Special_Friends.aspx. I would highly recommend it! :)