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Is It Fair For Boy With Autism To Be Banned From Church?

Mothers are fiercely protective of their young so it's no surprise that Carol Race, mom to 13-year-old Adam who is severely autistic has not backed down from her stance that their local Catholic church in Minnesota is discriminating against him.

The mother of five has regularly attended Sunday mass at St. Patrick's Church with her husband and children for the past 12 years despite recently being slapped with a restraining order for her son's disruptive behavior. Since Adam is over 6 feet tall and 225 pounds, it is difficult to control him.

According to an ABC News story:

"He said that we did not discipline our son. He said that our son was physically out of control and a danger to everyone at church," Carol Race said. "I can't discipline him out of his autism, and I think that's what our priest is expecting."

To see what the church said,


Church officials said they filed the legal papers after exhausting other options, as they were worried about the safety of others. It said:

According to Walz, Adam struck a child during mass, nearly knocks elderly parishioners over when he hastily exits the church, spits and sometimes urinates in church and fights when he is being restrained. He also one time assaulted a girl by pulling her onto his lap and, during Easter mass, ran to the parking lot and got into two vehicles, starting them and revving the engine, Walz alleged.

What is your opinion on the issue?

Join The Conversation
kmom1380729155 kmom1380729155 3 years
My son is just like this and I would never let him act like this towards others. If my son is doing well and I am going to completely manage him at church so that he can not hit, hurt, spit, assault etc. others, then I take him. If he can not be managed(this is most of the time), then I don't take him to church etc. I do expect other people to be understanding, but don't think that other people should put up with what the above mothers has forced upon the people at her church. Maybe she should try to do what we do. My husband and I take turns going to church. It is not the best situation, but there are no other options. Normally I would love to talk to another mother and brainstorm ideas on how to deal with our boys and their extreme behaviors, but unfortunately I couldn't see what was occurring and sit by and not say something.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
Bs, if you read the entire article, the church did offer an alternative, the family turned it down
Bsmrekar Bsmrekar 9 years
I work with a boy who has "severe" autism - he has little language and types to communicate. He is in a regular class room at a Catholic school and we attend mass every week. It is true that autism cannot be disciplined away - but that doesn't mean you can't discipline. The boy I work with knows what behavior is appropriate and what is not. If he is having trouble controlling himself from making noise - which is very few and far between - we can go outside or in the cry room. I've been to many conferences and places with parents who seem to feel like there is nothing they can do control their kids behavior. THEY UNDERSTAND!! They are some of the most intelligent and gifted people I know. So much frustration comes from not being about to communicate - find a way!! This child does seem to be out of control - with little intervention from the parents - letting him run out in the parking lot ect. I am not Catholic myself but I have learned that they see not going to mass every Sunday as a mortal sin that separates you from God. In that case is seems very wrong for them to not provide some kind alternative for the family.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
The church did the right thing, in protecting its parishioners and property and really protecting that boy from potential harm coming from any parent trying to protect their child from him. His mother is greedy plain and simple. She does know that God is everywhere not just chilling in a building right?
skigurl skigurl 9 years
lickety split, you're totally out of line for one, my first hand experience is not "occasionally being in the same room" - it's OFTEN going to CHURCH with autistic and disabled cousins, which is the exact situation at hand and secondly, i don't think i or anyone else in here has obvious "disgust" for people with disabilities. in fact, it's insulting that you would imply that, and by doing so, you aren't allowing any beliefs but your own give commentary on this sad situation i am 100% at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to being "disgusted", but i also have respect for the other families at this church, and feel that personal safety is of the utmost importance in this situation of course, i am not his mother, so i don't know for sure, but i think that something had to be done before someone got really hurt in this situation
phatE phatE 9 years
I see both sides.. I definitely am not about to say that I first hand know what this family is experiencing because I have an autistic cousin.. That's just foolish. However, I do feel that if this becomes an issue of safety for people, it can't continue just because he doesn't know any better. His parents have already endured many sacrifices for him, and if he is at a point where he can't attend church without harming someone, they may have to take a step back and not attend for awhile.. IMO, for situations like this, we can't request accommodations in one sentence, and then turn around and demand they be treated differently than other children b/c of their disability.. I believe these parents need to show this child consistency and do their best to teach him as if he did know right from wrong..I also think the parents need to take responsibility for letting it get out of hand.. Most churches wouldn't just kick someone to the curb for the sake of it, and apparently this church tried other options before asking that they not attend.. If the church could have done more, or allienated, discriminated, or disrespected him then they owe the family an apology, but simply asking that they not attend with this child because of his threat to others isn't out of line.. It's up to that priest to advocate for his patrons, and if it were outbursts, or actions that didn't have the same effect it would be different.. Basically, I have huge sympathy for what families with disabled children have to deal with daily.. It's a completely foreign way of life to those who aren't in their shoes. I have a cousin, but he's not my child, I am in no way saying I relate, or have first hand experience on what happens daily in the lives of this family. I am sure they are exhausted, defeated, and worn out.. I can't imagine the worry, and pain they feel for what their child is having to deal with daily, and will probably carry with him for the rest of his life. It's not something I take lightly, and I hope a church community reaches out to them in a way that meets them where they are at.. I also hope that the church uses this as an educational opportunity, as well as the family.. Both sides obviously have something to learn from this.. I hope for the childs sake, some sort of balance is found that respects both sides..
Jennifer777 Jennifer777 9 years
Please do not judge those whom you do not know. I am very aware of the difficulties that come with having a family member with disabilities. My own family is rife with them and I am well aware of how hurtful it is when people roll their eyes or make comments. I also know the pain of being the typical sibling who is left out due to another sibling's disabilities. This family has been attending this church for 12 years I would imagine that they offered compassion and help many times before coming to the decision that there was nothing left for them to do. I have in no way ever indicated that I believe he is a monster; he is not. He is however a potential danger to others (and quite possibly himself) and the mere fact that he is autistic is not a legitimate excuse.
lickety-split lickety-split 9 years
you miss the point. it's your obvious discust at someonne having a disability that is offensive, not your suggestion that the child shouldn't attend mass with everyone else. unless you have lived with a person who has autism on a daily basis you cannot understand what the life of the family is like. you are immediately treated just like this every single day; get out, not allowed, eye rolling, bad parent comments, typical siblings not included in events, etc., etc., etc. a little compassion maybe, an "im so sorry", a "what can the church do to help" rather than "he's attacking people!" as if he's a monster. he's 13 and severely disabled. he has an excuse for his behavior. not everyone can say that.
Jennifer777 Jennifer777 9 years
A person with a disability does not have the RIGHT to harm or harass another person simply because they have a disability and don't understand. My uncle is disabled, has highly emotional outbursts and doesn't always understand what is going on around him leading to frustration but that in no way gives him a right to grab me or knock me down. That is the issue here. This child, who is larger than many adults, has grabbed one little girl, no doubt scaring her, and nearly knocked down elderly parishioners, which could lead to injury. We are not talking about a child being verbally disruptive; we are talking about a child who is being abusive. It is his mother's job to ensure the safety of her son and to ensure that he is not a danger to others if she cannot do that then something has to be done. Once again, if the church offered/suggested alternative arrangements and the family refused to consider them then the church has the right to step in and ban the family from returning in order to protect the other members of the congregation. BTW- if this young man does knock an elderly parishioner over and said parishioner breaks a hip, what then? If he grabs another little girl and freaks her out so badly that she is scared when anyone touches her, what then? Do the long term ramifications of his behavior mean nothing simply because he is autistic?
pinkprincess1101 pinkprincess1101 9 years
good points legaleagle and lickety split, i think it takes alot of courage for us moms with children with disabilities to talk aloud about our situations, and then you get people that dont know much give their opinions, when they have not lived it fist hand on a daily basis, i dont knock you people, i just feel like no one knows the real situation unless you live it, so please no harsh comments just my opinion
jistpeechy jistpeechy 9 years
Okay, so this mom is so wrapped up in her son's behavior that even SHE can't get anything out of the service? Or is she totally ignoring his symptoms and letting everyone else deal with him? She probably loves her son so much that what he does at home is appropriate everywhere, which is her mistake, but if everyone is arguing about this boy, the priest is obviously not at the top of his game when he's there pissing on stuff and knocking old people down, but also people being on eggshells hoping he doesn't grab one of their kids, no matter WHY it is a comfort to him! This is a large male, not a tiny tot or an elementary school-er. If the church has offered a separate room with a video screen or even a specialist or two that can volunteer to have the boy in a separate, safe place during service, the parent's are absolutely being defiant and stubborn. That is not discrimination if they have offered alternatives! I don't want to come off like I don't care or am being insensitive. My nephew has asperger's syndrome which is on the less severe end of autism, while autistic kids have certain things that they are in tune to, they definitely can be guided in certain situations, depending of the severity of their syndrome. I worked with another specialist teacher with the two's and three's in my church, we had a little boy with pretty sever autism, but we made it work! The parent's weren't being singled out, they were embraced and accommodated within the churches resources. It's a shame that this isn't the experience with most.
lickety-split lickety-split 9 years
you think that's qualifies as first hand knowledge? occasionally being in the same room as another person with autism gives you knowledge? just wow. as for "one's rights" read the "american's with disabilities act", specifically the accommodations requirement.
Jennifer777 Jennifer777 9 years
The major issue here is that fact that this child is a potential harm to others. I understand that he is autistic but that does not give him the right to hurt others and his actions have bordered on that. At 6 feet 255 pounds he is easily able to injure a smaller child or an elderly person. If the church has truly tried to offer an alternative situation then they are well within their rights to protect the other members of their congregation. Please remember that one's rights end where another's begin.
skigurl skigurl 9 years
i do have first hand knowledge with this, and i've been able to form an opinion i have 3 cousins, all with differing levels of disability. one autistic cousin is 22 years old, and stands up in church, waves at the alter girls (which, of course, at age 12 and not understanding his situation, probably makes them uncomfortable), gives thumbs up to people, sings loudly, speaks out, and makes comments that "technically" disrupt the service. his dad will whisper stuff to him to calm him down, and he will calm for a few minutes, but then he starts up again. at my other cousin's wedding, he was up on the dancefloor during their first song, parading around them, but everyone just smiled, knowing he isn't out to harm anyone... but he has never been asked to leave a church service because he isn't physically affecting any of the other parishioners. now, if he began to urinate, touch others, or pull that poor little alter girl onto his lap, i'm sure someone would remove him from the situation. i don't think this is about passing judgement - it's about physical safety and security. i commented above, saying that if it was just a "noise" disruption (like my cousin) then i would think the church wouldn't say anything, but when he starts threatening the personal security of others, that's when it gets out of hand
nuri nuri 9 years
Wait? You can't discipline kids with autism? We set boundries and limits and create appropriate consequences for actions every day in my classroom, for my brother, for the kids I babysit and yes -- the children in the Special Needs CCD classes in my parents diocese. It's a hard question -- because really, I don't think we are getting the whole story on either side.
phatE phatE 9 years
so sad, i don't know what the right answer is, i just hope that this raises more awareness towards autism..
lickety-split lickety-split 9 years
and that is part of the problem. judgmental people with no first hand knowledge of this type of situation choosing sides that don't really exist. when you find yourselves in this situation you can bless yourselves with your own words.
legaleagle legaleagle 9 years
If we're picking "teams," please consider me out of the debate. Perhaps this is something that just hits too close to home for me to discuss on a sugar discussion board.
skigurl skigurl 9 years
and for the record, i'm Team Greggie on this one!
skigurl skigurl 9 years
given the behaviour of the boy (and of course, it's beyond his control and beyond the control of his parents, but it's his behaviour nontheless), he should not be allowed in church the family should recognize the dangers, and should either accept an alternative offered by the church or should stay home and watch the crystal cathedral, because the other members of the community should be entitled to a safe and comfortable environment i agree, Dbtabm, those parents are likely traumatized, not to mention what their daughter feels, and that's unfair
pinkprincess1101 pinkprincess1101 9 years
i agree legaleagle with your latest comment, i would never ever confide my son to my house, but if he were that severe i would look for alternatives like having maybe the priest come to the house for prayer i know at my church that is an option
Dbtabm Dbtabm 9 years
While I completely sympathize with this boy I can guarantee you that all of you would be singing a different tune if he had struck YOUR child. That parent deserves consideration as well.
legaleagle legaleagle 9 years
And what if your child was never able to outgrow these behaviors and was truly incapable of ever being completely disciplined? Would you never go to church again? What about restaurants? shopping malls? movies? parks? social functions? the grocery store? Would you sentence your child to a life of being confined to your house? I am really not trying to being combative just for the sake of arguing. It's just unbelievably frustrating to always hear what other people "would do" or how how they would handle it differently. Unless you are that parent, that family, you have no idea what its like. And I sincerely, sincerely hope that you never have to find out firsthand.
Greggie Greggie 9 years
If my child was verbally abusive or having potty accidents, I wouldn't wait for the church to say anything. I'd seclude him myself. And have. My child being two doesn't mean he can run up and down the aisle yelling, we go to the back or outside where he can't disrupt the service.
legaleagle legaleagle 9 years
Having no involvement and no personal knowledge of what actually went on in this particular situation, I don't feel entitled to judge any of the parties involved. That is why my comments were based on my personal experiences. Would you ban a toddler from church for being verbally disruptive? or having an accident? Despite some uneducated beliefs, many severely autistic people have as little control over their behavior as a small child. Disabilities are not an excuse for a free for all. Just as ignorance and fear do not excuse intolerance. Try walking a mile in the mother's shoes.
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