It's OK

The teen sits at the table, doodling during the Sunday School lesson. It's OK.

He leaves worship before the Sharing of the Peace begins. He does this every single Sunday. It's OK.

He sits in the back of the worship room, enveloped in his hoodie. It's OK.

I know the doodling teen is listening simply by the way he seems to not be listening. Too look at someone as they speak is much too distracting - facial expressions, lips and tongue moving, things happening in the background. It's much easier for him to focus on paper and pen and voice than the world around him and what is being said.

Not liking to be touched by people he doesn't know well, this is the best way for him to meet his need to refrain from physical contact in an appropriate manner and not seem rude. 

The hoodie wearing boy is doing his best to not be overwhelmed by the assault of sounds,  sights, smells, and sensations of his surroundings. 

Unlike his brother, the ten year old likes to sit up front during worship. That's OK.

He rubs a soft blanket on his cheek or squeezes and runs his hands over a spiky, squishy ball as we wend our way through worship. It's OK.

He climbs into my lap, leans against me, asks me to rub his arms, or sometimes asks me if he can have a drink of water. After the drink he flaps his arms and spins them around and around. That's OK, too.

And he kicks his feet, stands up then sits down again, walks around a bit, and comes back to his seat during the Sunday School lesson. It's OK.

Not only is the front of the sanctuary where all the action is, but there aren't people in his way taking up too much of his attention.

Our church provides "sensory bags" for children like him to help them be able to better enjoy worship. Getting pent-up energy out in preparation for sitting still for the remainder of worship is key to his experience. Moving helps him listen, helps him concentrate. Sitting still, he would be concentrated more on sitting still than the lesson.

People with sensory issues can have a difficult time navigating Sunday School lessons and worship if made to conform to the standard rules of sitting still and eye contact and removing your hat or hood during worship. Giving them the freedom to do what they need to do to be able to learn or to worship tends to be worlds less distracting than the involuntary outbursts that may occur if they are not allowed to do so. 

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently... Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help. Romans 14:1,4


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