Categorized | Junction City News, News

Reaching out

Posted on 14 August 2012 by admin

by Sayde Moser
for The Tribune
JUNCTION CITY – Jackson Hague is six years old, with golden blond hair, twinkling eyes and a laugh that can make even the grumpiest of old men break out in a smile. It is easy to see he is in love with life, although his life hasn’t always been the easiest.
Jackson was officially diagnosed with autism when he was three. His parents, Jason and Sarah, started seeing the signs around age two, when his vocabulary started to dwindle and he stopped looking them in the eyes. Immediately, Jason and Sarah started tapping into many of the resources and support groups available for families with autistic children.
“The programs in Eugene are terrific,” Sarah said. “But on a more local level, the community support wasn’t very active.”
Jason has been a pastor at Christ’s Center for two years now, where Sarah also works as the Children Administrative Leader. A year ago, they decided to start an autism-specific program at the church on Sunday mornings so parents had somewhere safe to leave their children while they attended service.
“Our goal has been just to help support those parents, because we know what it’s like,” stated Jason. “We could hardly go anywhere with Jackson because it is hard to keep him contained. A lot of times if we would try to go to church, one of us would just end up leaving because he wasn’t able to sit still that long. And there are other parents out there who don’t even bother trying to go to church because they know how difficult it is.”
Jason and Sarah were able to hire a teacher who works for ‘A Child’s Garden’ in Eugene and has the special skills and training needed to care for children with autism. She is there every Sunday from 9am until service is over, offering a less structured alternative to a normal day care.
The room reserved for this program is filled with sensory objects and toys, giving each child a chance to relax, escape and play safely while his or her parents are enjoying the service.
So far, four to five children show up every week.
“It is a great avenue for parents who would like to come to church and want to feel secure knowing their child is getting the care and attention he needs from a professional,” said Jason.
The children also get to stay for service as long as they can manage before they are shuffled back to the playroom, letting their parents stay and finish service. They range in ages from three to 10 and are currently all boys.
“For a lot of parents it is emotionally difficult to deal with this reality,” Jason said. “This can give both them and the kids a chance to relieve some stress and just relax. One in 88 children in Oregon will be diagnosed with autism, and while coming to church for a few hours on a Sunday morning might be small in the scope of things, it is one small thing we can do for these families to bless them and let them see that they aren’t alone.”
“I hope it continues to bless other families and I hope other churches pick up a similar program,” added Sarah. “There is a huge group of people in our area who are not able to participate in church because of a disability like this and we want to be able to help them as much as we can, because we understand what it’s like.”
Jason and Sarah have four other children, two older and two younger than Jackson. Jason said his daughters are already becoming activists for special needs children.
Jackson attends school at Laurel Elementary with mostly other autistic children.

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