Last night Tate had his second SPRED class. SPRED is Special Religious Education. Our parish, gratefully, offers this program for children with special needs so that they may receive instruction in our faith.
He has a one-on-one catechist. A catechist is someone who teaches the faith of the Catholic Church by both word and example. In the SPRED program, this is done through one-on-one interaction, but not in a vacuum. There are about 8 children in Tate’s group. They also learn the whole concept of community which is a big part of our worship.
Tate didn’t want to go last night, at first. I reminded him that he enjoyed it the first time he went. I talked about Ms. S, his catechist. I mentioned how he loved the paint. He perked up after that. He willingly put on his shoes, hat, and coat.
As we walked up to the ministry center, Tate got anxious. He flapped a little bit. He started a vocal stim. I spoke in a soothing tone, and squeezed his hand as we walked. He likes that…the hand squeezing. Occasionally, he’ll squeeze back. I love that.
In addition to the SPRED group meeting on Thursday nights, our ministry center hosts a food pantry that night. Usually the crowds are lining up outside when we arrive. Due to the bitter cold yesterday, the people were allowed to wait inside. Tate was thrown off by the number of people in the building. I know that a few of them were thrown off by my flappy, stimmy boy.
We walked upstairs to the SPRED room. See, last year, as part of a parish improvement project, some Boy Scouts built a special space for this SPRED group. Our fellow parishoners donated money for the cause. It is beyond amazing what can be done when people put their minds to it.
We were a bit early. Tate started to flap again. He walked in a circle. I asked if he wanted a drink of water, thinking it might help calm him down. Luckily, it did. He got himself a nice drink…and then watched as he pressed the button and the fountain went quite high in the air. Luckily it did not make a mess. I gave him the “mom” look. He smiled and backed away.
We walked back to the meeting space. There were 2 other boys waiting there. Oh. Yeah. All 8 children in the 6-11 year old program?? They are boys. Tate asked to play fans on my phone. I know watching fans helps him keep anxiety at bay. I allowed him to do it.
Before we knew it, the catechists opened the door to the meeting room. The lead catechist welcomed the three boys who had arrived. Tate muttered, “Bye, mommy”, and disappeared into the room. I thanked the head catechist and went home.
An hour and 45 minutes later I waited in my car for the side door of the ministry center to pop open. As it did, I walked up and got Tate, who was smiling his megawatt smile. The one that tells me, more than any words could, how his time had gone. I felt my muscles relax…I knew my son was content…and happy.
We got settled into the van, and I blasted the heat. As we drove home, Tate scripted happily in the back seat. I interrupted his script.
Did you have a good time?
Are you happy?
Yes. Yes. You said you’d come get me and you did. Happy!
What did you do tonight?
I painted myself. I clapped myself. I sang songs. I had some dinner.
What did you have for dinner? (They always “break bread” at the SPRED meeting.)
I had some goldfish and a lemonade juice box. Mmm-hmm.
Was that good?
And with that, we were pulling into the garage. Tate happily scripted into the house, and greeted Hubz with a big smile. I asked Tate if he wanted me to put him to bed.
Hubz happily took Tate upstairs. I went with them and put on my comfy clothes. I popped into the boys’ room and wished Jake a good night. As I hugged and kissed him, Tate leaned his head over the top bunk.
Mommy?! Give me kiss!
So, this SPRED experience is a Whole New World…and one that I think I like. A lot. Tate knows these are “his” people. He feels cared for, he feels confident, he feels accepted. I couldn’t ask for anything more.