Religion in my Family and Disability

My family had a recent disturbing incident. At this point I don’t care if I offend anyone but I still won’t use real names. I have a family member with autism, we’ll call her Sophia the First. If you don’t know my family, most of us are very religious.  I love God and try my best to live my life in a positive way that I feel the bible has taught me. Not everyone that follows a religion, follows it the same way. With this said, here’s the situation…

Some people in my family that we’ll call Hydras, decided it was appropriate to pray over Sophia the First. Now prayers are always welcomed but not in the context that they did it. It was outrageous and hateful in my opinion. Hydra’s prayers were to cast out demons in Sophia the First. This was so disgusting. Demons?!? Really are we back in the old times were everyone who was different was evil? I really do not get how the Hydras thought they were doing the right thing. In what brain does that action register as okay.

When I was told about this incident, I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. I told no one about it until 2 days later when I told my boyfriend and sister. I usually them everything right away but I guess I just didn’t want to think about this. I seriously couldn’t comprehend the actions of Hydra. At this point, I’m so sickened by this, I don’t want to see Hydra.

This situation brought up some past grudges my mom had with other Hydras in the family. She opened up to me and another family member of a similar situation that happened to her when Joel was born. Joel’s diagnosis came at his birth. No one was expecting it but that is no excuse for Hydra’s comments.

Hydra told my mom that she had to have been living in sin because children like that are not from God. God doesn’t give children like that. Hydra told my mom to pray for it to go away. My mom said she never told anyone about it and even though it bothered her and it was definitely not something a new mom to a child with a disability wants to hear, she pretended Hydra never said that. For the record, Joel is the greatest gift on this planet.

Religion is great, I love being a christian, but it was a weird effect on some people. I don’t understand why people would use God as an excuse to act so ridiculous and dangerous. We’ve seen it all through out history and it seems like those days are past us and then things like this happen.

Working in the field that I do, I have come across families that have had similar situations or that they themselves feel like God will take away a disability. I’ve even had people call that are in denial and think their child needs healing and some that use very harsh and ugly words to describe their child. But it felt so much more hurtful when it happened in my family. I do believe in healing but I believe you can’t heal someone from something that they are, something that’s a part of them.

I know everyone interprets the bible differently and everyone has the right to believe what they choose to, but don’t try to force it on someone else and don’t go around believing that you are right over everyone else. I just don’t believe people with disabilities have demons and I think it’s completely inappropriate to try to exorcise demons from them.

Its more important to love and accept each other’s differences and abilities. I know I can’t change the way some people think and arguing with them can most likely make it worse. So, I’ll hold on to peace.

Addition:

If you’re here you probably know what down syndrome is but I thought I would explain a little about autism. I got a request to clear some things up so here some information I often share with families with new diagnosis of autism. If you google autism, chances are you are going to find a lot of wrong and down right scary information. Take a look below.

What is autism?

When people refer to “Autism” today, they are usually talking about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), which is a brain-based disorder characterized by social-communication challenges and restricted repetitive behaviors, activities, and interests. The Centers for Disease Control describes ASDs as: “a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.”

What causes autism?

There is no known single cause for autism, although the best available science points to important genetic components. Through twin studies, scientists have determined that autism is a genetically based condition. If one identical twin has autism then there is an 36-95% chance that the other twin will also be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. For non-identical twins the chance is about 0-31% that both twins will develop autism spectrum disorder. The chance that siblings will both be affected by ASD is also about 2-18%.

Scientists are unsure what, if any, environmental triggers may be involved in autism. One theory, popular in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, that vaccines cause autism, has since been disproven by numerous studies conducted around the world.

Characteristics

Autism Spectrum Disorders are characterized by significant impairments in social interaction and communication skills, as well as by the presence of extremely challenging behaviors. Such behaviors include repetitive motor behaviors (hand flapping, body rocking), insistence on sameness, resistance to change and, in some cases, aggression or self-injury. Many individuals with an autism spectrum disorder have significant cognitive impairments, although some have typical or even above average IQs. 30-50% of people with autism also have seizures.

Prevalence:

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) reported that approximately 1 in 68 children in the United States has been identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This rate remains the same as in 2014, which is the first time it has not risen. However, with respect to older data, this new estimate is roughly 30 percent higher than the previous estimate of 1 in 88 children reported in 2012. In the 1980s autism prevalence was reported as 1 in 10,000. In the nineties, prevalence was 1 in 2500 and later 1 in 1000.

It is problematic to compare autism rates over the last three decades, as the diagnostic criteria for autism have changed with each revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), which outlines which symptoms meet the criteria for an ASD diagnosis. In 1983 the DSM did not recognize PDD-NOS or Asperger’s syndrome, and the criteria for autistic disorder (AD) were more restrictive. The previous edition of the DSM, DSM-IV, included autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, PDD-NOS, and Asperger’s Syndrome. Due to inconsistencies in diagnosis and how much we are still learning about autism, the most recent DSM only has one diagnosis, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which encompasses each of the previous four disorders. — this gives us reason to believe that autism is not really on the rise, it just means we’ve gotten better at identifying the disorder. It may have increased some but not as much as people are often led to believe.

ASDs continue to be almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189) and they are reported in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.

 

All of this information was taken from: Autism Science Foundation 

I know this was a lot of science talk and what not. Let me know if you need more clarification or help understanding. Check out  our Resources tab if you need more resources for a loved one with autism or other disabilities.

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Camp Able

Here is a picture of Joel and his counselor, Jackson. I love seeing him swinging because he used to have such a hard time. He would always fall right off the swing but in the past 2 years or so he’s become a pro.

Last Wednesday Joel started a 5 day camp called Camp Able,and it was such a beautiful experience. I really really wish it lasted longer. In previous posts I have mentioned my job but if you don’t know, I work at a nonprofit called Families Helping Families of Jefferson in which I help connect families to resources and provide trainings and do some advocacy work and other stuff. Well one of the biggest things that I get calls about as summer approaches is summer camps. Many times children with disabilities get rejected or sent home from camp because they are not fully potty trained or because of their behavior. Now most of these camps advertise themselves as “special needs” camps or something similar. Soooo… how can a special needs camp reject children because of their special needs?!? Here is an excerpt from a local “special needs” camp ad:

The success of all recreation activities depends not only on good planning & instruction, but the conduct of participants. Appropriate behavior includes the ability to follow instructions and interact with others in a socially acceptable manner. Must be mobility capable & able to attend to personal needs.”

Those words already rule out so many children with disabilities, it is so crazy to me that they put this out there. To me, this is basically saying only higher functioning kids are accepted. It is so unfair. I hate when a parent calls to ask me for a list of camps that are supposed to be for kids with disabilities and I hear the gratitude and excitement in their voice, only to have some of them call back saying their child has been rejected because of what I just mentioned. It is really so upsetting.

I say all of that to say this: Camp Able is awesome.  Joel has gone to other camps that are great like Lions Camp, but I haven’t been able to go and see what’s like for myself. I written about how he acts when we go see him at games before, how he can be mean to us and it seems like he doesn’t want us there. Well, that’s how it is when we go to see him at Lion’s Camp for the closing ceremony. So we have decided not to go see him for that anymore and that was our only look into his experience at Lions Camp. He can’t really communicate what his experience is like to us but we know it’s good based on pictures and conversations with staff.

Camp Able was different. It was held close to home and My sister and I were able to volunteer some time with them. We couldn’t volunteer all we wanted but we did as much as we could. Anyway, we got to see it all and it was great. Joel was a little moody at times but over all he interacted great and had lots of fun. They accepted kids with mobility issues, behavior issues, and even children who were not fully potty trained. My sister’s camper was a girl who’s behavior was not the best and would hit her counselors. She was also not fully potty trained and my sister had to help her in the bathroom and clean her up after an accident. Guess what? She didn’t get sent home!

Camp Able was full of adventures to local spots like the aquarium, pool, and city park’s amusement park. Joel had plenty of fun on water slides and playing basketball. If you know Joel, you know his favorite things are dancing, water, and basketball. Although, weirdly enough he didn’t want to dance at all during camp. He did however chose to show off his basketball skills for the talent show, which I thought wa super cool and different. One of my favorite things about Camp Able was that they made room for Jesus!

Here are some pics:

 

 

 

 

 

Vlogging with Joel: Camp Able — Down With Joel’s YouTube

P.S I feel like this post was all over the place, hope you still enjoyed it.

You Make Me Brave

IMG_3197A couple of weeks ago we went to the beach for the day. If you don’t know Joel, he LOVES the water. It’s so hard to get him out once he’s in. He’ll yell and hit and push us when we try to get him out. Usually after some struggling, we can get him out. Luckily he usually stays close to the shore, but this time he was more gutsy.

My dad joined us this time for the trip and took joel further out with him. No problem with that until we got out of the water for some snacks and my dad never got back in. Joel was thinking hey, my dad let me go far so I can do it again. By the way, my mom and I are very short and not very good swimmers… we couldnt go as far as my dad did. And I have a huge fear of deep water. If my feet can’t touch the ground I panic.

For some reason, he didn’t go that far until we were trying to leave. I was tying to hold his hand and pull him in, and he’d resist and get further away. My feet couldn’t feel the sand and I was so nervous that he’d get way too far me. I could see him struggle and get scared when the waves would get too high and I saw him inhale water. But the more I tried to pull him in, the more he put up a fight.

There was a man right next to us who refused to help by the way! Ugh!!! Anyways, my mom came to help but she’s just as week and nervous as me. But slowly somehow we got him close to shore. There Joel decided to push me and yell at me and cause a scene. My dad finally showed up and showed Joel his laser tag card and he yell “yay!” And got out… that’s all it took.

Fast forward a couple of weeks to now, I am currently in Guatemala serving in an orphanage with an awesome group. We got together one night for an amazing bonfire worship. One of the songs that we sang was You Make Me Brave. I always loved this song but that night God used it for more than just a good song. I was getting all kinds of emotional throughout the night but while I was talking to a few people afterwards, I began to see the ways God makes me brave in situations like this that I didn’t really think about. I’m scared of deep water but I remained by Joel’s side because God gives me the bravery I need to be there for him in situations where I probably couldn’t do the same for myself or others.

As a result, Joel has an ear infection because of the all the water that got in. He also may not be going to the beach anytime soon.  My poor baby…

Thank God Joel has Down Syndrome

So my family hosts a home group every Friday in which some people from church come over and study the bible to together and what not. Usually at the end of each night, people tell the group if they have a prayer requested or they have something to share.

On last Friday a lady had something we wanted to share. Apparently she had asked the group if they would join her in prayer for a pregnant friend who was told by doctors that her baby might have down syndrome and they wanted to run more test. — That’s understandable. But what she wanted to share was that God is so good because it turns out that the baby doesn’t have down syndrome. Apparently the doctor made a mistake, but thank God the baby is okay. Okay? So a baby with down syndrome is not okay?

I immediately looked at my parents when she said this but they seemed to not be bothered by it. But I was so shocked that she said that. She knows she is in the home of someone with down syndrome. She spoke her words with such confidence and pride that God had answered her prayer. That was so merciful because he didn’t give that baby down syndrome. So, what does she think of my family? Does she think it’s a curse or a punishment? Should we be grieving that Joel has down syndrome? Should we not be grateful to God that Joel has down syndrome?

My parents reaction left me a little upset at them.  How did they not say something? How did they just look at her and nod? I was going to say something, and maybe I should’ve, but I didn’t. I don’t know if my parent felt what I did, I feel like they should have, but who am I say this? I did mention the situation to my mom the next day and all she said was yeah, this lady doesn’t know. That’s it. I don’t know what I expected. I’m not trying to make my parents look bad. They just have different views, grew up in a different time and in a different country. I know they love Joel and protect him, and I know I am not a parent, but I felt strongly about this and I felt they should have too.

All I will say now is I Thank God Joel has down syndrome. I know it may not be something people ask for but I am happy God gave us Joel. I know all of our lives would be completely different if he didn’t have down syndrome. I am grateful that he was created this way. No pity, no prayer requests on changing this, no.