Yesterday was Michael’s First Communion celebration at our church. He made his sacrament with many of his classmates from catechism class, some celebrating on Saturday. It all went off without a hitch, you could say. We had our handy tools to help us, headphones for absorbing some of the noises around him, his chewie to help as a mouth fidget, and his clinking, a little strap he likes to wave back and forth near his waist. It helps him focus. Also, before leaving the house, I had performed most of the Wilbarger Protocol, or at least most of what he would let me do with a three piece suit on. “Compressions on the fingers only Mommy,” he said, “no shoulder compressions please.” But he sat quietly, following along in his ‘church book’, the book of adapted pictograms that describe the typical Catholic mass which he uses every week at church. The mass was nothing new, as he goes weekly to church with me and his father, but we were worried about how he would do at the altar with us when he had to take the host, the communion, for the first time. He had practiced this in catechism classes, of course, but you never know what to expect with exceptional children, right Moms?
So there we were at the altar with the other families, and when our moment came to take communion, the priest ceremoniously said, “The body of Christ.” Michael cupped his hands automatically in the way he had been shown in class and had seen his father and I doing many times since he was a year and a half, and said in a quiet voice, “Amen.” My eyes filled with tears. I hadn’t realized I had been holding my breath for the past year waiting and worrying. Were we pushing him into this too soon? Was he ready? As always, Michael showed me by his actions that he was ready, willing and able. The priest congratulated him and turned to us saying, “Congratulations to both of you too.” He smiled. I smiled at the priest through my tears. I was so proud of my little boy for crossing yet another barrier some in society would have said he would never cross. I now am seeing there is no barrier that he will not cross if he wants it bad enough.
I learned from Michael yesterday about perseverance, hard work and family traditions, and how all of these are as important to him as they are to any child, exceptional or not. Yes, there are extra challenges to go through, there are adaptations to take into consideration, but he will thrive if society mirrors back to him his potential which our wonderful family, friends and church community does every day. What traditions are important to you and your exceptional children, Moms? What does your family believe strongly in? Never discount your child’s ability to participate fully in whatever the family is doing, even if adaptations and changes have to made and there are rough patches. You and your child will grow and be the better for it. Until next time.