Sunday, January 27, 2008

Still Searching

Last week I spoke to the person in charge of disability issues for my Catholic diocese. I've written before about trying to find a church that was welcoming to my family, and about my failure to find that. So, I was encouraged when my oldest daughter's behavior counselor gave me the name and phone number for the person at the diocese.

I spoke with Nita, a mother herself of an adult son with significant disabilities. I was encouraged, sure that she would understand the struggles I had been through. And while I believe she does understand to a degree, the phone call didn't leave me with a strong belief that my struggles would end.

Nita suggested two churches near me, and she was very anxious to list all the positive points about each. But when I explained Ashley's disabilities, her need for a sign language interpreter who could do tactile sign, and that I wanted Ashley to receive religious instruction, I heard the pause in her voice.

I've found that many churches believe they are accessible by the mere fact of having ramps and an interpreter at the front of the church during services. Those accomodations are indeed commendable, but they are not enough. My daughter cannot see an interpreter at the front of the church. And, I don't believe she needs to just sit in church during the service. I want her to have religious instruction. I want her to find the peace and comfort I have found in my religion. And, after attending Chancellor's funeral last week, I was even more convinced that she needs to find a faith that will sustain her during life's most difficult times. I want Ashley to understand that when I die, I will be waiting in Heaven for her. I don't want her to just think I deserted her. At this point in time, she would not understand, and that breaks my heart.

Surely a church must exist that has figured out how to instruct people with intellectual disabilities. I want to believe that there is a church that will welcome my family as well as provide religious instruction for all my children. Am I expecting too much?


Candice said...

How ironic, this thought crossed my mind just yesterday. We were in church and we have the interpreter and the secion for the deaf community that sits in front. There were some visitors in front of us that said how great the interpreter was and it got me thinking. What is going to happen when Rebecca loses her sight? Will we have to get an interpreter that does textile signing to sit beside her and interpret? Will I have to do it? Rebecca is just starting to understand how it all comes together and have questions regarding her faith. She is not completely there by any means, but I just pray that these answers will come before she loses her sight.

I know that our church does not use textile signing. Actually, I do not know anyone who does. Good luck on your search, I know it has to be aggravating for you.

Jane said...

I don't think you are asking too much to have a church. A place for people with significant disabilities has been weighing on me lately. I am part of a group that has been meeting to find a way to reach out to the community in meaningful ways. Cindy is also a part of the group. I agree that meaningful religious instruction must be a part of it. It is essential that Ashley understands that you are OK if you die and that she will be OK too. I would also like to see the parents of kids with disabilities have a place to go where they could be comfortable, knowing their children are being cared for by not only well meaning but competent teachers. We had some really bad encounters when my son was small because his behavior did not meet expectations for some people.

Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me. Ouch. I think of that when I want to avoid eye contact with the homeless. Ignore the legless guy in the wheelchair. Skirt around the Down Syndrome guy bussing tables at McDonalds. Get impatient with the morbidly obese woman taking up too much space in the aisle at the grocery store.

We are working on it on several levels.

mommy~dearest said...

I wonder if you found an interpreter and presented it to the church for the arrangements. That way, you've taken the legwork out of tem having to find one, and I would think they would have a hard time turning the terp away.

MMC said...

Wow. A church that would/could offer religious instruction to peopele with intellectual disabilities. What an amazing concept ... not at all being sarcastic here. It's not something I've ever really seriously thought about before.

It just seems so obvoius and yet so forgotten. And if it should be happening any place, it should be there.