In The Crying Room Forever!



Attending Mass on Sunday morning can be a great source of spiritual renewal for Catholic families. We have found it to be an opportunity to shed any negative experiences and energies of the week before by directly participating with the faith community in the hymns, prayers, and sacraments of the Church. This transforms and rejuvenates us on so many levels.


Our family on our son Brendan's Confirmation day

Our family on our son Brendan’s Confirmation day

Before Kids – After Kids

However, when we became parents, our relationship to Mass changed. Bringing our children to Mass each week made it harder to concentrate on the liturgy. Some weeks we were fortunate enough to stay in the pew but other weeks we chose to sit in the “crying room.” For any who aren’t familiar with the term, a crying room is an area in most churches where families can take their kids when they are too noisy or disruptive.

Our kids

Our kids

Still in the Crying Room?

We knew that with four rambunctious and energetic kids we would have to spend some time there. But as our kids got older, we expected that our days in the “crying room” would be coming to an end. However, in our case there was a catch. Our daughter Danielle has autism and her behaviors made it difficult to attend Mass as a family. When you are the parents of a child with autism, you find that the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t always materialize as soon as you think it should. We began to wonder if our family would be in the crying room forever! We wanted to go to Mass as a family. We wanted to sit together in the pew with the rest of the  parishioners without the plexiglass window of the crying room separating us from what was happening. After all, we had more than done our required time.

With our girls

With our girls

Father Knows Best

So we came up with what we thought would be a good solution. We went to our pastor and explained that from then on we would attend Mass separately so one of us could stay home with Danielle. We thought this would allow our family to join the rest of the parish in the pews without being disruptive to everyone else. Fortunately, Father Phil knew better and told us this was a bad idea. He said that we should attend Mass together as a family in the pew and not worry so much about what others were thinking.

We are glad he did! We found that we could enjoy Mass again when we took Father’s advice and stopped worrying so much about Danielle’s behavior. Furthermore, because we took her to church regularly, her behavior gradually improved. Of course there’s still the need to be flexible and use courtesy and common sense. If she is having more difficulty we take her out temporarily, but we always return after a few minutes so she doesn’t learn to act up as a way to get out of Mass. There are good days and bad days, but on the whole she has learned to not only sit through the Mass but to actively and reverently participate in it. She  stands, sits and kneels at the appropriate time, puts our family’s envelope in the collection basket, and extends her hand to others for the Sign of Peace. Most importantly, she receives Holy Communion regularly and kneels to pray when she returns to the pew.

Danielle is out of the crying room and in the pew where she belongs!

Danielle is out of the crying room and in the pew where she belongs!

Our children are now in high school and college. Our days in the crying room are thankfully long past. We have learned the value of attending Mass as a family. It is our genuine hope that other parents of children with special needs find they can participate in the Mass too!

Copyright 2015 David and Mercedes Rizzo
Photos copyright 2015 David and Mercedes Rizzo. All rights reserved.


About Author

David and Mercedes write and speak from a faith perspective as parents of a child with autism. They are available to speak, and have appeared on radio and other media. Visit to learn more. Follow them on Facebook at Autism With The Rizzos. Authors of Praying For Your Special Needs Child, (Word Among Us Press) and Spiritually Able and The Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit (Loyola Press).


  1. Great article! Glad your pastor was wise. You have paved the way for other families. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    • Thanks for your article. I have 5 children, 3 with autism, 2 are too young for diagnosis. Mass is always a difficult time for us and its reassuring to hear the stories of others who have walked this path.

      • Mercedes and Dave on

        Thanks Suzanne, There are so many families out there who are walking the autism path. We wish you and your family the best.

  2. This article is bringing tears to my eyes. We too have a child with challenges. We are fortunate that our small parish has watched our struggles and have watched our young children grow up in the church. My son now holds open the doors for everyone and doesn’t join us until everyone has finally made it into church. Sometimes he doesn’t join us until the Gospel reading, but Father always has an eye on him, and greets him with a big smile when he finally does joins us (as does the choir). Our son and his younger sister are often asked to bring up the gifts – alone. My husband and I would often cringe, but, knock on wood, so far so good. Just last week our son was asked if he would like to be responsible for snuffing out all the candles after Mass. He is thrilled with this huge responsibility. We are very, very lucky. Our son is often disruptive during the service, but no one seems to mind. Everyone knows we’re doing our best, and most importantly, Father and the other parishioners are happy to see us together as a family each week celebrating the Mass, and always overlook the disruptions as they are apt to occur. I wish everyone felt as welcome in attending Mass with a child with special needs as we are.

    • Mercedes and Dave on

      Kim, thank you for sharing your family’s story. We are so pleased to hear about how your son is actively participating in the life of his parish. Like you we have seen great progress. All our best!

  3. Cathy Carlin on

    This is a great article that I want to share on Facebook as we have a special needs faith formation program at our parish. It says the link is no longer available or I do not have permission. Can you please check into this and get back to me? Thanks!

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