Will My Autistic Friend/Child Be Saved? Autism and Romans 10:9

Disclaimer: The words in the post may or may not be edited as I’m still trying to figure things out with the Lord’s help. I understand it’s a very sensitive subject and will be eventually consulting with Christians who minister with mental abuse or work in autistic ministries to help me polish this post.

Not sure how to give an intro into this post. However, I found a testimony about a heart-breaking story regarding a parent who wants her son to receive a powerful spiritual encounter with Jesus. This may be a good place to start. Here’s her story.

My son has been diagnosed with autism but we know it has a spiritual component. I have been praying for him and we know that whether it is part of the autism or not, there is an irrational spiritual fear. I read to him the Bible and try to work with him and so do his teachers, but they think he has autism. We aren’t fighting that (the autism), but we are certain some of his problems are spiritual and due to abuse from outside family members and “friends,” especially the fears and certain odd behaviors. Please pray for him that he receives and becomes a servant of Jesus Christ, because I am convinced that will help him. He has some limited understanding of the Gospel and God has revealed to me that the fear expression (both facial and verbal) that precedes some of his behavior is spiritual and would be helped if he places his trust in Jesus.

I’ll cover the behaviors of autism and spiritual abuse in a later post. I’m not an expert at that subject, but I do want to share my own story of spiritual abuse (also in a later post). While I do believe some behaviors are caused by spiritual abuse and damage from social PTSD, I believe in a God who can remove fear of man and limited understanding of the Gospel. Since behaviors are conditions and habits that are linked to free will, I feel that Christ can only walk alongside a person struggling with autism while giving them the strength to choose reconditioning of their quirks or behaviors that aren’t central to autism.

While I really don’t like saying some of this part, let me apologetically recap with a bit of Christianity 101 and why all humans need Jesus:

Romans 5:12 says “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men.” This scripture is one of a lot (including Ephesians 2:3 and Psalm 51:5) that indicates that every person regardless of race, status, or track record is born into sin. With the exception of Jesus, every single human is sinful from conception in the womb. Roman’s 3:10 says this clearly “There is no one righteous, not even one.” When Adam ate the fruit, he infected the human race. We all are born from Adam and therefore inherit his original sin. This means that autistic individuals and those with Aspergers are sinful. Their nature is evident everyday, as humanity, even myself, is rebellious and care most about themselves and fulfilling their own needs. It’s pretty obvious when you look around you and it’s getting worse by the second.

The Bible also says that as sinful people, we only have one way into heaven. That way is through faith in Jesus Christ, the son of God. In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We are commanded to give up our own desires and sinful nature and put our faith and live our lives only for Jesus. Acts 17:30 reads, “he commands all people everywhere to repent.” Moreover, we are commanded to be obedient to Him. 2 Thessalonians 1:8 indicates that “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” If we do not set our hearts to go after Jesus Christ, damnation awaits us. As much as I don’t like to say it, this is the reason why I’m writing this post. I don’t want autistic individuals to suffer the damnation I just described.

Now, let’s focus on the question. Can an autistic person or an Aspie be saved by Jesus Christ and his amazing grace? Let me come right out and say it, yes they can. Can an Aspie encounter Jesus? I’m living proof that that has happened.

What puzzles me is the way fellow Christians judge those with autism by measuring their faith by fruits that they can’t bear due to their condition. Obviously, those fellow Christians need to take a good look at themselves before determining if someone with autism is saved or not.

Romans 10:9 says that if you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. But if an autistic person is non-verbal but believes in his heart, what happens when he dies? I don’t want to answer that question directly. It has the potential to open a can of worms that should stay closed.

I’ve been reading through 1 Samuel 13 – 16. Isreal’s King Saul had been given a mission to wipe the Amalekites clean off the map. While the mission was to completely destroy everything, Saul kept the best sheep and cattle. The prophet Samuel knew that Saul’s heart was central to the plunder from the countries Isreal was at war with. Samuel did not break this to Saul gently. Even though Saul knew what was wrong, he lost his annointing as king which was carried over to David, the son of Jesse. Saul was considered the Fabio of Isreal in the Old Testament while David and the line of Jesse were considered nothing worth much more than street urchins.  Eventually even with visual lack of strength, David showed his devotion to God by taking down the giant Goliath. David made mistakes constantly, but God knew that his heart belonged the Father.

So let’s say an autistic person always loves reading the Bible but can’t speak or type words into a computer. Let’s also say that he does nothing else besides take it all in. A Christian from a huge mega-church could go out and say that this autistic person can’t build God’s kingdom because only by speaking the Gospel or writing out their own testimony will they be able to bring others into His Kingdom.

But what if a hypothetical law has been brought into North America, and all churches had to be burned down with Christians in them? What if Christians had to be lined up to be slaughtered before an alter?

Let’s say this actually did happen and one of the church attendees was a boy with autism who had been reading the Bible and hardly doing anything else with his time besides eating and sleeping. The general who would give the order for the firing squad to kill off the Christians yells for them to get ready and aim. All the Christians cringe ready for the bullets, full of fear of dying because they didn’t win souls in a war on evangelical culture.
But wait..the autistic boy pulls out his Bible, steps out from the crowd. He looks up to heaven, and even though he’s none-verbal, screams in happiness toward the roof raising his Bible high and proud while the firing squad wets the boy up with huge slugs of metal.

After the firing squad comes to grips with the epiphany of a life they had taken, some of them walk out of the church with tears running down their faces. Some of them may even be talking to God himself and deciding to repent and explore what just happened. The general only becomes more angry and sadly guns down all the other Christians with a shotgun. The story contains no happy ending at all.

I’m sorry for creating an R-rated picture to illustrate my point that man looks at the appearance but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). You as the reader are probably still puzzled because I didn’t directly answer the question. Maybe that child didn’t directly win people to God. Or did he? Did the child who was shot by the firing squad go to heaven? Not sure, but I am pretty sure that his cry to God came from his heart though. There are deeper ways to take this discussion but I should wrap it up shortly here.

Even with the fact that I have problems memorizing different things in the Bible due to my own struggle with Aspergers, I still encounter God and still hear him even if I don’t know Him fully yet. Spirituality is a journey. Spirituality is a relationship with God, not a religion. It’s not about knowing all the answers or conforming to something while knowing all the answers. It’s simply a life-long chase and quest for encounters with a God who wants to connect with people who live by faith.

What can we learn from this? There’s so much grey and not a lot of black and white. To me, that’s perfectly okay.

The question we need to ask isn’t if a child or friend with autism is saved. The question we need to ask is what’s in the heart of an autistic person or an Aspie when they read the Bible, participate in church, or interact with other people?

Look At Me: Autism and Eye Contact

“Look at me…LOOK AT ME!”

My supervisor has a way of getting people’s attention. He could be wondering why or if my right eye has taken five minutes to itself. As you guess, I have trouble with eye contact

‘I’m looking at you, idiot.’ I thought to myself wishing I could say that out loud.

Like every other neurotype, I took in the rebuke for my mistake of not wiping cars the way my supervisor wants. It’s not that I hate my job. The noise doesn’t bother me even as I focus and the smells of cleaning chemicals are manageable. If these two accommodations are properly controlled, I can last one more day on the job. Too bad having a lazy right eye doesn’t help.

Unfortunately looking at my supervisor, with my dominant eye, may trigger sensory overload. My eyes are straining as I looked into his. Looking into the window of a room that was my supervisor’s conclusion of my mistakes was giving me a headache. It felt like the room was a harsh fuchsia changing to milky green and back again every two seconds.

It’s not that my supervisor was irate. I know he means well. I can’t find the words to explain to him that long moments of eye contact cause me to feel mentally sick. If I knew what I would say, I’d explain that pro-longed eye contact causes me mental vertigo. Or I’d mention that my brain has facial recognition crashes when eye contact lasts more than 10 seconds. But alas, he wouldn’t understand when I turn away. All he knows is that when I turn away, to him it means social indifference, insensitivity, or lack of concern. Yet, I’m listening. I can focus on what he wants me to hear. I can feel every stabbing word like shurikens grazing my ears. I understand how to do my job better, and I always have. Like I said, I made a mistake. My supervisor made it a bigger deal by assuming I’m a cold factory-line worker who wants to open up his own bakery.

The difficulty that comes with eye contact is a result of the brain’s subcortical system, which handles natural focus on faces. It’s like a human mental facial recognition program. This system assists the brain with emotional perceptions. The system is activated by eye contact. For those without autism or neurotypes, subcortical activation is achieved. As a result, eye contact results in connection. For those with Aspergers or autism, overactivation in the brain occurs. When they concentrate on the eye region, sensory overload or meltdowns overtake them. This also happens with certain facial expressions such as those fear and anger. According to Harvard professor Nouchine Hadjikhani, forcing anyone with autism or Aspergers to look into someone’s eyes has the potential to create a lot of anxiety for them. Encouraging people with autism to slowly get used to eye contact can help them avoid sensory overload or meltdowns.

The story ends with me informing my supervisor I need a bathroom break. Finally, he lets me go and I sit on the toilet until I can calm down and stop shaking. If only autism and Aspergers was as mainstream back then as it is now. If only this study was found earlier in my life. I’d have a longer career at the car wash enjoying the repetition that helps keep me focused and working well. But I need to pay the bills. That involves eye contact without the repetitive tasks.

Credit: Harvard professor Nouchine Hadjikhani: http://www.philly.com/philly/health/study-overstimulation-not-indifference-makes-eye-contact-hard-for-people-with-autism-20170702.html

Can’t Say What I Want to Say: Autism and Communication

Kids with autism always get the bad rap for being mischievous when others see the screaming, hitting, self-abuse, stimming, and even biting.

I understand where this is coming from. We all have a past, different thresholds of personalities and experiences we can handle, and can only walk in the shoes of some many other individuals. Yet here’s what makes us the same. This site supports the belief that both neurotypes and autistic individuals are human. Both react to painful and uncomfortable situations. As a result, we should all treat each other with equality and respect. All that’s different is with autistic individuals, certain types of conflict can be too much to handle. The abnormal and unconventional reactions to some situations happen without any way to explain what’s going on.

For some parents, it’s hard to explain to friends why they themselves are bitten and punched daily. Everyone else sees poor behaviour or that children purposely act like “mini-megalomaniacs.” Retail workers misjudge kids who scream at the top of their lungs. They wonder if certain kids are just greedy. Most of the time, kids with autism can’t say what they want to say. In reality, they can’t handle all the activity that triggers a sensory overload. A single mother had a son who had a meltdown the first day waiting for his school bus. A neighbour asked if he was okay. In that situation, picking him up or holding him would have made the meltdown worse. His mother would have to let him lay on the ground until he was calm again. Those neighbours probably thought this single mother would beat the tar out of him. Before 2000, kids are spanked and kicked out of public places because of a lack of awareness. It’s still shameful for a child to act out now. With an extra chore of having to explain what’s going on, even with the slow rise of autism awareness, I’m wondering when enough will be enough to pinpoint a solution.

One the other side, some parents are able to use moments, with temper tantrums and meltdowns, to spread awareness of autism or Aspergers. I’m fortunate to have been able to speak at three. I started learning grammar at eight. I would journal a lot to practice being a better writer and communicator. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be not to be able to communicate certain wants and needs verbally.

I’ve also encountered teachers who enjoy working with older autistic high school students. They have found that with their other co-workers and other educators, there’s an agreement that the students who have autism are among the most appealing to work with. So there are people who understand this thing called autism. There are also people who thankfully don’t draw narrow conclusions about certain behaviours.

Behaviours, good or bad, are a form of communication. There’s a stereotype that autistic people are naughty by nature. This is false even though there are exceptions. Often, if an autistic individual acts out inappropriately, they can’t communicate their wants and needs properly. We need to understand why those who struggle with autism react the way they do. This is difficult because each person is different. Even those who can talk have problems with communication because of social contexts they can’t understand.

A person with autism who is non-verbal is like a foreigner who doesn’t speak English in an English speaking town. This person would also lack the ability to form tangible words in other languages. To add onto this “language barrier,” there is the lack of awareness of what is socially awkward around neurotypes. When the autistic individual needs to get a message out, they will do whatever it takes to get your message across, even if it means causing a scene. They don’t want to cause trouble, but they don’t know how to share their needs.

There has to be solution to help those with autism communication properly. It doesn’t help getting angry, raising voices, and restraining someone who simply needs assistance for something simple such as going to a bathroom. It can be as simple as teaching them to write on a pen and paper, installing a text to speech plugin or app on an electronic device they own, or giving cue cards with common statements in case they need to urgently say something.

Remember, assumptions are the mother of all screw-ups. Judging an autistic individual by their failure to communicate only makes it worse in their fight to survive in a neurotypical planet. This is the case both online and in person. Although in some cases, if someone with autism has a hard time learning to communicate even in teaching, there are other issues to deal with as well.

I know the harsh reality of how it is since I struggle with Aspergers daily. Let’s try to understand each-other. Let’s learn what works and what doesn’t to communicate with each-other. And above all, if possible, let’s look at our own struggles before assisting another with theirs.