ABA During Church Service December 16, 2018

And Why It Takes A Village…

Is it really true? Can this be done?

Oh sure! Most families with young children or older children have a bag of tricks in their bags, purses when times get tough. This morning we packed our usual non crunchy snacks, backpacks of little trinkets, and even got to church a little early. And 5 minutes in our two year old is shouting “No. I not!” and sprawling on the floor. Our five-year-old is trying to ‘help’ and also standing up for his rights in the ‘those are not her toys category’. IT. WAS. A. MESS…and I was feeling hot.

And then after a cheese stick saved us about 20 minutes of silence.

Our daughter threw markers into the aisle. I was no longer hot. I was DONE.

And you know what? It caused me to empathize in a whole new way with our families with children on the spectrum.

Sometimes you feel the ‘why bother?’ and you end up not leaving the house on Sunday(or Saturday) for your religious service. And then days turn in to weeks turn into months and years.

Here is what saved the day for me as a parent. The people in the row behind us.

I was tapped on the shoulder and given peppermints, caramels, and butterscotch. I chuckled because these candies are staples in many African-American churches. I even imagine my grandmother handing these out to someone at church at that very moment.

And you know what? Those candies saved the day. I was able to provide my candies and directives and I had 100% compliance. Initially, I gave them on a continuous basis…and then slowed down my schedule of giving. Yes the senior adults at my church were the observers to my case and plight and provided higher motivators making peppermint, butterscotch, and caramels the real MVP reinforcers.

Here’s what I learned and what I give as my Parent Coaching Lessons for Sunday Service

  1. Keep trying and going for it. If religious services are important to you then they are important for your family. One day you will feel less hot…and be able to enjoy the service.
  2. Open up. Let the village help you. Even if that means going outside of your own candy diet. I am almost anti-candy…but it worked!
  3. Rotate your motivating objects (the toys). But remember, if they don’t give you the behavior you want to see (compliance), then they are not reinforcers. Keep trying (peppermint, butterscotch, and caramel).
  4. Take advantage of children’s church. Ours was closed today…but yes. Absolutely. If your church doesn’t have a village or smile warmly at you or welcome your child’s special needs…change locations.
  5. Let your ABA Team know you’d like them to join you on Sunday. Why? So that they can help your child and write an actionable plan for Sunday success.
  6. Breathe. I forgot to do it. But it’s important to remember for the next time.
  7. It absolutely gets better. And it did . In fact, today things improved.
  8. Know when your stuff or bag of tricks is not working! And get something new. It’s not about what works for you…it’s about what works (for them).
  9. Make sure you account for life’s variables. I knew a few things going in…my daughter had an awful time going to sleep (so little rest) and did not have her usual full breakfast. So going in, my usual bag of tricks were not going to be powerful enough because our variables were different this time.
  10. Buy butterscotch candies

While there are fixes for every problem behavior, whether the child is neurotypical or not, all fixes are not quick.

I was slightly still embarrassed (it was the marker throwing). Not because I am a BCBA. But because I don’t want my kid throwing markers! I still engaged in conversation with my senior adult support team. And you know what they said?!? They told me their children and now grandchildren did the same thing and have been worse. They told me it didn’t bother them. They told me that they got a good chuckle and it was okay. Big Lesson here: When you go out in the world, you begin to understand that there is more in common with raising children (neurotypical brain developers or not) than there are differences. I learned this by talking. I didn’t keep my challenge and struggle to myself and haul myself home feeling defeated. In fact…we carried those same wonderful behaviors to a restaurant (because we are brave and like to live on the edge) LOL!

But here is what you MUST remember…and I write this thinking of learners I have and currently work with.

For every embarrassing giggle we pass off as funny (as parents)…remember that you are embarrassed. Also, remember that not all behavior passes will be given to kids as they grow up.

So yes, work on improving behavior and move beyond the social isolation. Get out there!

In fact, make it a goal for 2019.

Broaden your village. Stop Laughing at What’s Wrong. And Fix It!

Here is to YOU!