Monday, April 28, 2014

Interviewing Autism (A Christian Perspective) - Part 5 - Autism & The Church: Wrap Up, Resources, & Questions From a Parent

Previous Links:
Part 1: Interviewing Autism - "An Introduction to My Life, Conversion, & Diagnosis" 

Part 2: Interviewing Autism - "An Overview of Autsim As It Manifests in Me" 

Part 3: Interviewing Autism -  "The Challenges to & Benefits of Faith as Well as Some Tallk About Tangibles"

Part 4: Interviewing Autism "Autism & The Church : Serving Not Severing"

What are things that Christians and the church should be sensitive to in ministering to autistic people?  I think we’ve touched on quite a few of these things in other questions and therefore trust that some deducing can be done from those answers. There is however, one almost humorous thing that immediately comes to mind - primarily because I hear so many people who live with autism talk about it.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Interviewing Autism (A Christian Perspective) - Part 4 - Autism & The Church: Serving & Not Severing

Previous links:
Part 1: Interviewing Autism - "An Introduction  to My Life, Conversion, & Diagnosis" 

Part 2: Interviewing Autism -  "An Overview of Autism As It Manifests In Me.

Part 3: Interviewing Autism - "The Challenges to and Benefits of Faith As Well As Some Talk About Tangibles" 

In what way can the church serve autistic believers better? And what about reaching out to autistics that are unbelievers?  David, there are so many things that could and should be addressed in this question. People with autism and their families face such a plethora of challenges in the church setting.  This one interrogative is an absolute interview all its own. 

Rather than exposing all of the nuts and bolts of the specific struggles those with autism could use encouragement with (struggles such as trying to make it through, or even into a worship service; struggles to partake of the Lord’s Supper due to sensory or conscience conflicts; or struggles to figure out how to connect with those in the congregation) let me lay a more foundational answer to this question.

I sincerely believe that the starting place for the church to serve is for the church to seek to understand.

In the past 6 months I have had a number of conversations with adult on the spectrum, with parents of children on the spectrum, with pastors of parishioners on the spectrum, and with elders who are called to shepherd sheep on the spectrum.  Those conversations have revealed a lot to me about autism and the church.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Interviewing Autism (A Christian Perspective) - Part 3 - Living With Autism: The Challenges to & Benefits of Faith, as Well as Some Talk About Tangibles

Previous links:
Part 1: Interviewing Autism - "An Introduction To My Life, Conversion, & Diagnosis" 

Part 2: Interviewing Autism - "An Overview of Autism As It Manifests in Me

In what ways has being diagnosed with autism challenged your Christian faith? You know, David, I don’t know that I can say that the actual diagnosis of autism has been a challenge to my Christian faith.  Instead, discovering the truth of autism within me has actually been an incredible encouragement to my faith.

The diagnosis has finally solved some of the mysteries of my life and faith journey. It has granted me a greater understanding of this thorn in my flesh that at times wars against my spirit, and now gives me an anchor which helps to moor me against the assaulting doubts when they begin to rise.

I now understand the physiological and psychological wiring that makes doubt a greater temptation for me than it may be for others.  My battle to believe actually makes some sense now and thus the diagnosis has granted me an additional helpful hook on which I am able to take my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.  Autism has explained so many of the dark shadows that have always served as haunting apparitions upon my soul and psyche and in an interesting way the diagnosis has served as a catalyst to enable me to settle into Christ more easily.  For that I am grateful.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Interviewing Autism (A Christian Perspective) - Part 2 - Living With Autism: An Overview of Autism as It Manifests in Me

Previous Link
Part 1: Interviewing Autism - "An Introduction to My Life, Conversion, & Diagnosis"

Autism covers a wide spectrum of symptoms. Can you describe your own experience of it?  Thank you, David, for bringing up the idea of the wide spectrum. This is a crucial point to consider if our conversation here is to be truly helpful.  It is crucial because I will be speaking to you from my spot on the spectrum and not presuming to speak for all spots on the spectrum. It has been said that “if you’ve met one person who lives with autism, you’ve met one person who lives with autism!"  I take that a bit farther and say, “ if you’ve met one of us on Tuesday, just wait, Wednesday’s coming and something will probably be different with us then!”

The variables between those of us on the autism spectrum are vast and thus my story and my experience may differ greatly from another’s. (I am by no means the standard bearer.)  Along this spectrum you’ll find such “labels” as autistic disorder, rett syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDDNOS).  You’ll find folks with autism who are non-speaking, others who are very verbal, and some who can’t talk but can type up a tantrum. There are the mathematically minded and then there are those to whom math is an utter anathema, but who can slice and dice words like a mental meat grinder.  There is a multiplicity of diversity, but there are some common denominators as well.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Interviewing Autism (A Christian Perspective) - Part 1

A while back, Dr. David Murray tossed some wonderfully thought provoking questions my way in an email interview.  Those questions were about autism (particularly issues of faith and doubt as they relate to it) and about how the church can help. My answers to those questions took up more than a brief blog could handle and we stuck the info on the back burner trying to determine the proper venue for the information. As time has passed, quite a few friends who have had access to this have reminded me that there are incredibly important things here.  I have repeatedly been encouraged to share some of the information, yet have always been a bit hesitant. Despite my hesitancy, at their encouragement. I'm moving forward with sharing this with you now.

Truth be told, there's just not a lot out there dealing with autism from a Christian perspective. There's even less out there that looks at it from a personal Christian perspective - that of a person actually living with autism who is also a believer.  Recent studies suggest that 1 in 68 children are now diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Recognizing that there are many in your communities and congregations who are battling this beast I'd ask you to consider carving out some time to read some of these ramblings.  I'll dish them out to you in several servings. Perhaps they'll help you gain some understanding about our struggles with autism - and perhaps that understanding will be used to encourage you to reach out to some families in your church who live with autism - families who probably need a little bit of help and hope.

Here in Part I a few of the introductory details of my life and diagnosis are dealt with. There is also an incredibly pertinent piece of the puzzle for helping you understand why those living with ASD may seem "disconnected" in this life. Part II begins to deal with the nuts and bolts of the autistic struggle. The remaining parts will continue in that vein. (And as a simple FYI - this is an un-edited personal copy of the interview, so have some mercy!)

Hi Lori, I’m looking forward to getting to know you and to sharing some of your journey with our readers. Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself? How old are you, where were you born, what family do you have, and what are your hobbies or interests?
David, thanks so much for the opportunity!  I am 45 years old and grew up in the “booming metropolis” of Cowpens, SC.  I was born in Sumter, SC and the details of how I came to "be" are a picture of the glorious grace and perfect providence of an all-wise and wonderfully kind God - a God who truly works all things (even horribly hard things) together for the good of His children.
I was conceived as the result of an adulterous affair between a single woman and a married man - a married man who had 6 other children!  When they found out that an unplanned child was on the way the decision was made to abort me due to the stigma and inconvenience of the situation.