Teresa’s personality is typically soft and placid.  Perhaps because she was raised by her father, her rough edges don’t usually emerge as irritability.  However, Aaron stands apart from everyone with his arms folded as if daring even the bravest of the brave to glance in his direction.

At Special Gathering, we have learned over the course of years to allow the unique personalities of our members to play out without judgement.  Yet, the people who are consistently irritable, or The Irritables, do present a unique disciple concern.

By the time a person reaches adulthood most of the roughest edges has been wore away.  Think of the rock caressed by the flowing waters of the bubbling brook which eventually becomes a smooth stone.  However, our members often miss the rubbing that others get for one reason or another during their childhood and adolescence.  Perhaps it is their limited mental capacity which doesn’t alow them to sort through complicated relationship interactions.  Perhaps there are overly protective parents who monitor every move.  Maybe their early training was too harsh and their personalities broke under the pressures presented to them in their daily life.

Whatever the reason, the moderating subtleties that mark the arrival of adulthood somehow seem to escape their grasp and our members are left with the emotions and reactions of pre-pubic adolescence.  Of course, their personalities, like other adults, continue to grow and mature but more slowly.

There may be no real keys to unlock the secrets coaxing the irritable folks in your program from their state of mind.  However, there are a couple of things that we have found that help.

  1. Harsh disciple will almost never work with these members.  This will only accelerate the irritation.
  2. Ignoring should probably be our first line of defense.  If Aaron can stand for a few minutes alone and apart, he can gain his equilibrium and slowly allow himself to be absorbed into the group.
  3. Laughter is the “Get Out of Jail” free card for most of our irritable members.  Of course, they don’t want to ever be the brunt of the joke but laughter is contagious for almost everyone.
  4. Observe what makes them most irritable and permit subtle changes, if necessary.  Marcie could never allow herself to become a part of the group during the first hour of our program.  This is when we have our large group meeting.  However, she was quickly and smoothly assimilated into the smaller group setting.  We allow her to sit in the very back of the room whenever the larger group is assembled.  But insist that she remained with her smaller group during the discussion and Bible study times.
  5. Allowing movement may release the tension that is evident.  When Tory visited a few weeks ago, she wanted to walk.  Before the program, we allowed her to walk the parameter of the gymnasium.  She and her caregiver had come an hour early.  By the time, the Special Gathering program began, she was able to stand in the back of the room quietly absorbing the action. 

The object is to allow the person time to become adjusted to her surroundings.  There is no magic bullet in regard to a perfect time.  Remember their irritability is not a personal, confronting or aggressive stand.  It is a measure of their instability while being thrown into an unfamiliar or overly active surrounding.

At times, nothing seems to work, except prayer.  Bathing each member with prayer during the week can work miracles in their lives and in the life of your program.

The Irritables will always be with us.  Learning to moderate their mood and allowing them to come to a place of peace is important.   It is also one of the many roles you play when you are teaching and leading a group of people who are developmentally delayed.