View Full Version : Preparing SN kids for religious milestones

06-22-2011, 10:26 AM
If your religious practices involve children having milestone events, what has your experience with your special needs child been like?

We are Catholic and DS will be entering the 2nd grade in the fall. It is customary for children to make the sacraments of First Reconcilliation (Confession) and First Holy Communion during the 2nd grade year. We are concerned about whether DS is developmentally ready for these events. We have been working on these concepts with DS for long time. And the Religious Ed director gave us the materials for next year so that we can work with DS over the summer. These can be hard concpets for any child (or adult!) but DS's autism gives additional challenges. DS is very good at rote memorization, so he can answer the questions easily, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he really understands the material or what is happening spiritually.

If your special needs child has prepared for religious milestones, what did you do to help prepare him/her? Did your child make the milestones "on time" or at a later age than usual in your tradition? How did you know if your child was developmentally and spiritually ready for these events?

If you have expereince with the Catholic sacraments that would be most helpful, but I would like to hear from parents of other faiths as well.

(Please don't respond just to say that you think my child does not need the sacraments. I get enough of that elsewhere. I need this to be a support thread. Thanks.)

06-22-2011, 01:09 PM
Gena, I can't speak specifically about sacriments. My DS has ADHD and SPD, and some small issues now with anxiety. He is 6.5 and we held him back so he is starting K this year instead of last year (he was VERY immature and just not at all ready last year). Anyway, our issue comes up at bar mitzvah time. Technically you have a bar mitzvah at age 13. DS's will be closer to his 14th bday b/c 1) he started a year later, 2) if we do it at 13 most of his friends will just be 12. We have roughly a little over 7 years to help him prepare. He will go to hebrew school starting in K (technically you don't really need to start hebrew school until 3rd grade, but we know a few extra years of learning about holidays, expectations etc... won't hurt DS). Normally you start tutoring for your bar mitzvah 8-12 months prior. We will definitely start the process at 12 months prior (and maybe even before that). I know it's not the same b/c DS will be older, but this will be our experience.

06-22-2011, 02:41 PM
I haven't BTDT, but would writing/illustrating a social story be helpful?

I was raised Catholic, and I honestly don't know that I, as a neurotypical child, was truly able to FULLY understand everything involved, so I kind of question whether any child does, kwim? (And I in no way mean that as a criticism. so I hope it doesn't come across that way.) IMHO, understanding regret and forgiveness would probably be key.

Have you spoken to your priest?

06-22-2011, 09:35 PM
I worried about this as well. We are also Christians but have only 2 sacraments in our denomination. We did infant baptism which is viewed as a gift of God by grace. That God gives the gift, so very similar to the Catholic church. Our other sacrament is communion. I have struggled with this for a long time for a variety of reasons (it is done differently than in the Catholic church which caused issues between dh and I, our church was in transition of pastors, dc's readiness for it). We too have talked about it with him for a long time. He has asked about it for a longer time. He just took a small group class and received for the first time on Pentecost. I guess what it finally came down to for us was this:
Did he have an understanding of what it is (understanding of the different elements of the Eucharist itself, the concept of sin and forgiveness, etc)? This is hard even as an adult to explain and understand.
Did he have a sincere desire to participate?
Was he desiring this out of faith?
My dad reminded us that even Christ in Matthew 18:3 (New World Translation) "said: "Truly I say to you, Unless You turn around and become as young children, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens."

A wonderful book is E is for Eucharist by Michael Shoulders (who is a delightful author)! It might also help to explain some of the specifics on a level your ds would enjoy. http://www.michaelshoulders.com/

06-22-2011, 10:11 PM
I am just starting to think about this as DD1 will be 6 in a couple weeks and is starting K5 in the fall. I know she can't go to the regular religious education classes so I just called the religious education about what services they do offer for other kids (the newsletter said they had other options for other kids). But besides DD1 being autistic and not understanding a lot of things she is nonverbal for the most part so I don't always know what she does understand or not. I think it is very important to have these sacraments so i think if you can do the preparing at home along with the church's guidance I think you'll know if your son is ready. Good luck.

06-23-2011, 03:26 PM
I was raised Catholic, and I honestly don't know that I, as a neurotypical child, was truly able to FULLY understand everything involved, so I kind of question whether any child does, kwim? (And I in no way mean that as a criticism. so I hope it doesn't come across that way.)

Yes, there is truth in this. One of our parish priests reminded me that the sacraments are called "mysteries of faith" for a reason and if we had to wait until any of us FULLY understood them, it would never happen.

The priest and the RE director have each told me that DS needs to be able to demonstrate reverence and understanding to the best of his ability. They told me the parish follows the "Guidleines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities (http://www.ncpd.org/views-news-policy/policy/church/bishops/sacraments)" by the US Council of Catholic Bishops. I find this document to be helpful and reassuring that DS will be able to particiapte in the sacraments, but it doesn't really help me figure out WHEN he will be ready.

06-23-2011, 11:05 PM
I am horrified that anyone would say your child wouldn't need the sacrements because of his processing differences! That makes me feel ill.

I'm not Catholic, I'm Episcopalian. Many of our practices mirror yours'. Not to get too theological here, but if cognitive understanding of the sacrements was necessary ... well, I shouldn't get to participate either.

One reason why I love liturgical churches, and feel the appeal of other faiths that celebrate with ritual, is that we can all participate as a community, nomatter what.

Our deacon's son has autism. I know his preparation for confirmation included more pictures that would be typical for a 10 year old. And they also practiced where to stand, what to say, etc, quite a few times. This was a dress rehearsal, too, with the priest fully vested and stuff. That helped. He did great!

06-25-2011, 02:06 PM
I haven't read the other posts... and I promise I won't tell you to have your child skip communion! We're Christian, but not Catholic, so I know some of the beliefs are a little different.

DD came to me last Easter (2010), and told me "Mommy, you eat that cracker and juice because you have Jesus in your heart, and Jesus died so we wouldn't be in trouble with God for being naughty. Jesus is in my heart, too, I asked Him this morning!" That was enough of a basic understanding of communion for my Pastor and I both to agree to letting her take communion.

Here was our line of thinking: (1) DD had made a confession of faith. While she doesn't fully understand what that means, I was baptised at 15yo and still didn't always "get it". (2) There's an age of accountability involved here. While some religions see a child taking communion as a terrible sin, I believe God sees her clear, innocent heart when she takes communion.