Author Topic: Child with a mental disabilty at Mass - question  (Read 5541 times)

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MissRose

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Child with a mental disabilty at Mass - question
« on: February 03, 2014, 08:24:28 AM »
I need how to handle if it happens again without being rude to the child and his mother.

I went to Mass yesterday morning. As I was going for Holy Communion, a teenage boy with a mental disability (Downs) kept trying to grab my arm - he was sitting in an aisle seat and was alone while his mother received Communion. I thought he would have known my posture of head down and hands folded meaning to not disturb me (which is my normal way of going up to receive Communion). The young man then tried to grab my right arm several times to get me to shake hands with him like he was able to do with several others in the line. I gently pushed his arm away several times before I was out of his reach to go receive Communion.  I did shake his hand when he came around my direction during the sign of peace as he tends to go around to many in his area to hug or shake hands before his mother gets him back to his seat.

How should I handle it if it happens again? Should I approach his mother who certainly does her best to make him behave himself at Mass and let her know without being rude? They both have the right to attend Mass but at the same time he does need to understand personal boundaries & appropriate times to shake hands, reach to touch people or hug them.

Zizi-K

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Re: Child with a mental disabilty at Mass - question
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2014, 08:54:44 AM »
Perhaps this fellow needed verbal direction and did not pick up on your nonverbal cues, obvious as though they seem to a neurotypical person. A quiet "I'm praying now, we will shake hands later" May have been effective. In any case, I'm sure this mom has been over and over this with her son, I'm not sure what good it would do to speak up other than embarrass her. I would chalk it up to "living in the world with other people." Not to say that it wasn't annoying for you, but it doesn't sound threatening in any way.

DCGirl

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Re: Child with a mental disabilty at Mass - question
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2014, 09:04:16 AM »
I have to agree with the previous poster.  But, I also to have to note that it sounds like others are shaking hands with him.  It's probably difficult for him to understand the nuances if others are shaking hands with him. 

CaffeineKatie

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Re: Child with a mental disabilty at Mass - question
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2014, 09:20:57 AM »
I think this really is one of those cases where you just ask yourself "What would Jesus do?"  And I think you know the answer to that.

YummyMummy66

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Re: Child with a mental disabilty at Mass - question
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2014, 09:29:22 AM »
You were in a church.  To receive Communion. 

A young man with a disability wants to shake your hand as you walk by.  He attempts several times as you try your best to avoid said young child of God.   

Why couldn't you have taken a precious few seconds and shake the young man's hand and be on your way?  It appears as if that is all he wanted to do and he did not understand your refusal of doing so. 

Love the quote, "What would Jesus have done?".   That is what you should have done. 


Winterlight

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Re: Child with a mental disabilty at Mass - question
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2014, 09:56:45 AM »
Honestly, I would have been uncomfortable being grabbed at by a seated person while I was in line.
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MissRose

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Re: Child with a mental disabilty at Mass - question
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2014, 10:10:31 AM »
Honestly, I would have been uncomfortable being grabbed at by a seated person while I was in line.

I was uncomfortable with being grabbed like that while in line.  It should not matter that I was in line at church or another place.

To a previous poster: I did shake the young man's hand during the sign of peace. I do not reach out and touch others in the communion line when I am seated but a child with his disability may need more reminding of appropriate times to touch others by an adult.

esposita

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Re: Child with a mental disabilty at Mass - question
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2014, 10:28:01 AM »
Communion is the most intimate action that a congregation participates in together. It is about being a family. We make exceptions for family members that need a little bit of extra care. He's not harming you or anyone else, he's simply trying to be a part of what everyone is doing.

Also on top of all that, if everyone else is shaking his hand, in his mind it is an appropriate time for touching.

TootsNYC

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Re: Child with a mental disabilty at Mass - question
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2014, 10:29:28 AM »
Honestly, I would have been uncomfortable being grabbed at by a seated person while I was in line.

I was uncomfortable with being grabbed like that while in line.  It should not matter that I was in line at church or another place.

To a previous poster: I did shake the young man's hand during the sign of peace. I do not reach out and touch others in the communion line when I am seated but a child with his disability may need more reminding of appropriate times to touch others by an adult.

I think it does matter where you are. It's especially true when you're in line for communion--the idea is of communion with one another, not just communion with God. The "body of Christ" is his believers, not just the bread or His physical body.

Shake his hand, and then go back to whatever meditation you were in. For one thing, it's simply fastest. For another, it will reduce the irritation in you, which is *not* something to go to the communion table with; the Bible is pretty explicit about being at peace with other people when you come to the table.

The etiquette "in the family" (which is what church is supposed to be) is different, more forgiving, more generous.

LeveeWoman

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Re: Child with a mental disabilty at Mass - question
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2014, 10:32:52 AM »
Honestly, I would have been uncomfortable being grabbed at by a seated person while I was in line.

I was uncomfortable with being grabbed like that while in line.  It should not matter that I was in line at church or another place.

To a previous poster: I did shake the young man's hand during the sign of peace. I do not reach out and touch others in the communion line when I am seated but a child with his disability may need more reminding of appropriate times to touch others by an adult.

I think it does matter where you are. It's especially true when you're in line for communion--the idea is of communion with one another, not just communion with God. The "body of Christ" is his believers, not just the bread or His physical body.

Shake his hand, and then go back to whatever meditation you were in. For one thing, it's simply fastest. For another, it will reduce the irritation in you, which is *not* something to go to the communion table with; the Bible is pretty explicit about being at peace with other people when you come to the table.

The etiquette "in the family" (which is what church is supposed to be) is different, more forgiving, more generous.

Ditto.

camlan

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Re: Child with a mental disabilty at Mass - question
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2014, 10:39:51 AM »
In the moment, I'd do whatever would end the situation as quickly and quietly as possible. Without knowing the young man in question, I'd also be concerned about doing something that might cause him to speak up or make some other noise or confusion, which would be particularly inappropriate at Communion.

So I'd shake his hand and then go back to what I was doing.

A suggestion for the future--in many Catholic churches, people who cannot receive Communion are encourage to go up to the altar at Communion time to receive a blessing from the priest. They usually indicate that they are not partaking of Communion by crossing their hands over their chest or something similar. Introducing this at your church would a) allow the young man to participate instead of staying in his pew and b) allow his parents to monitor him during Communion instead of leaving him unattended in his seat. Sort of a win/win for everyone. If you do bring this matter up, it this something you could suggest to the pastor or parish council?
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MissRose

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Re: Child with a mental disabilty at Mass - question
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2014, 11:06:11 AM »
In the moment, I'd do whatever would end the situation as quickly and quietly as possible. Without knowing the young man in question, I'd also be concerned about doing something that might cause him to speak up or make some other noise or confusion, which would be particularly inappropriate at Communion.

So I'd shake his hand and then go back to what I was doing.

A suggestion for the future--in many Catholic churches, people who cannot receive Communion are encourage to go up to the altar at Communion time to receive a blessing from the priest. They usually indicate that they are not partaking of Communion by crossing their hands over their chest or something similar. Introducing this at your church would a) allow the young man to participate instead of staying in his pew and b) allow his parents to monitor him during Communion instead of leaving him unattended in his seat. Sort of a win/win for everyone. If you do bring this matter up, it this something you could suggest to the pastor or parish council?

My church is a good size.  We do have several other people who assist our priest with giving out Communion.  The priest tends to choose a different line to give Communion and does not stick with the same location week by week.  He is the only one allowed to give a blessing to someone in line that is not receiving (mainly infants, toddlers and those kids not yet old enough to receive etc), and the other Communion ministers are not allowed to do so including our pastoral administrator who is a religious sister.


bopper

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Re: Child with a mental disabilty at Mass - question
« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2014, 11:46:19 AM »
Quote
I thought he would have known my posture of head down and hands folded meaning to not disturb me
I think this is where you went wrong. You assumed he would know what this means.  Since he doesn't, you need to be firm but friendly.

"I am praying now, I will shake hands after the service."

or you could have done a quick shake.

GrammarNerd

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Re: Child with a mental disabilty at Mass - question
« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2014, 12:03:51 PM »
You have every right to feel the way you do.  If you're uncomfortable with what happened, you're uncomfortable.  Just wanted to say that.

However, it's one of those things where life just doesn't go according to plan sometimes.  This boy just doesn't get some social cues, and other people may indulge him (sharing the peace when it's not technically the time for that), but it doesn't make you bad for not wanting to do it right then.

Possibly one thing to do would be to just kind of pat his hand as you push it back toward him, and say quietly "Not right now, sweetie.  I'll shake your hand later." when he first tried to grab you. 

Another thing that you can do, more proactively, is ask the priest how you could handle it.  Presumably, the priest knows the young man.  Explain that it's not that you don't want to share the peace with him, it's that going up to receive communion is a solemn time for you and you don't wish to interrupt it right THEN to shake the young man's hand.  What would be the best way to handle this in the future, so that he doesn't feel rebuffed and you don't have to interrupt your prayerful time?

mbbored

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Re: Child with a mental disabilty at Mass - question
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2014, 12:10:49 PM »
You have every right to feel the way you do.  If you're uncomfortable with what happened, you're uncomfortable.  Just wanted to say that.

However, it's one of those things where life just doesn't go according to plan sometimes.  This boy just doesn't get some social cues, and other people may indulge him (sharing the peace when it's not technically the time for that), but it doesn't make you bad for not wanting to do it right then.

Possibly one thing to do would be to just kind of pat his hand as you push it back toward him, and say quietly "Not right now, sweetie.  I'll shake your hand later." when he first tried to grab you. 

Another thing that you can do, more proactively, is ask the priest how you could handle it.  Presumably, the priest knows the young man.  Explain that it's not that you don't want to share the peace with him, it's that going up to receive communion is a solemn time for you and you don't wish to interrupt it right THEN to shake the young man's hand.  What would be the best way to handle this in the future, so that he doesn't feel rebuffed and you don't have to interrupt your prayerful time?

I agree with you, GrammarNerd. Miss Rose, you have every right to feel uncomfortable. However, life is not always perfect and comfortable. If you don't want to shake his hand, pat it and say "not right now," or consider sitting in a section not right by him. But keep in mind this is a religious setting, where patience and tolerance, especially for children and the disabled, is particularly expected.