Archive for the 'Autism' Category

In Place

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

It was a Sunday night in 1992.  I sat down with my friends.   Then they came in.  She was a disheveled mother.  He was seven years old and made horrible noises.  When we sang he screeched.  When we prayed he hollered.  During the sermon, he barked.

The young fella was a terrible distraction.  I was among the many that turned around and looked.  None of us expected this.  None of us understood.

My church was incapable of helping.  Not that she would have trusted us to help.  If she was to worship at all it would be from the foyer.   At least she could listen to the speaker.  I opened up the balcony for them.  It seemed like a good idea.  Too bad he liked to bang on the glass.

The mother desperately wanted to worship.  But nobody could watch the boy.  She tried to come in on Sunday nights.  After about three weeks, I never saw her again.  I pitied her.  She had to raise a boy with that rain man disease.  I saw a bleak and dismal future.

Recently God opened my eyes.  Now I know what to do.  I know how to gain trust and confidence.  I know from experience that singing in foyer is just not the same.  I know that each and every person has the right to worship in the sanctuary.  I know that God wants them there.

My time in foyer is over.  Good people work hard to get me in the sanctuary.  They work hard to eventually get Tiger in the sanctuary too.  The future is not bleak.  No, it is lucid.

When Jesus was crucified, the curtain ripped from top to bottom.  Before then only a few could ever enter the inner sanctuary.  Now all people can experience the very dwelling place of God.

God blessed me with an ability to fix things.  I am starting to see something He wants me to fix.  Some of God’s people have disabilities.  No man on this planet should ever stand between God and His people.  I think God wants me to open up worship for folks who are kept from it.    I just hear that Soft Still Voice saying, “Fix it.”

Today’s sermon was about bringing marginalized people into the sanctuary.    I will post an audio file of that sermon soon because it is very fresh and it will really encourage many of you.

With the right attitude, churches can enable disabled people to worship.  Those people in turn help the worship to be better, because their worship is sincere and easily appreciated by others.  When everybody gets to the table, everybody brings something to the table.  Everybody gets blessed.  Everybody is a blessing.

Tough Day, Fun Day

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

This evening my new church met at the park.  This was the first encounter they had with Tiger in a difficult social setting.

I had a great time, but it would be hard to convince folks of that.  To the untrained eye it looked like a miserable situation.  This was difficult for Tiger.  I had to deny much of what he wanted.  And this made for a few difficult moments.  I spent about two hours wrestling with the boy.

Many wonderful people went out of their way to show us a little love.  They were sympathetic to both of us.  They understood how doing these things is necessary to teach him about social situations.

I also saw a little misunderstanding.  See many folks told me, “I don’t know how you do it.”  They saw the difficulty we face and missed the blessings.  That is a shame.

Many good things are difficult.  That makes life more worthwhile.

Champions don’t look for easy match-ups.  They desperately want to fight the most difficult opponents.  They live for the struggle.  They train relentlessly.  They are not often down for the count.  They are always down for the struggle.

Tiger and I have some bouts of our own to fight.  I have high expectations of him.  He will be a truly excellent man.  He will achieve great things.  I can see that in his eyes.  He will not only figure out how to survive in a neuro-typical world, he will thrive in it.  And by that excellence he will help the cause of acceptance.

My family is not wimpy.  We train relentlessly.  We live for the struggle.  We look for the difficult bouts.  Today Tiger wrestled with a difficult situation.  I wrestled with him.  We had fun because we like to wrestle.  He is a little smarter.  I am  proud of him.

I finally feel inspired.

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

Since Texas Instruments told me my job ends at the end of this year, I have really had a time trying to figure out what I want to do. But that has changed. I finally feel inspired.

Some of the autism bloggers encouraged me to watch the webcasts of the recent MIT Media Lab Symposium on Assistive Technologies. Now I understand a little more about what I want to do with the rest of my life. I want to work in the assistive technologies business.

The MIT Media Lab does all kinds of stuff. It ranges from weird stuff with cars to practical technologies for living today. I love that there is a place like that for imaginations to run wild and creativity to manifest itself. To me it is like the old Xerox Palo Alto Research Center but for more specialized stuff.

Seeing this symposium makes me want to be a part of that industry. I think I know what to start doing now. I desperately want to help disabled people find and take the freedoms that God endowed to them. This industry is full of visionaries. That is exciting. That is worthwhile.

Being Moved:About a Way of Being

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

I have been doing a lot of autism posts lately. I don’t know how long I will keep that up. It has just been on my mind a lot lately. I really want to direct this one to the folks out there who have very little contact with autism. As you consider what autism is, consider this.

I made a major transition in the way I see autism and in the way I see my son. Part of that transition was from viewing the work of one particular person, Amanda Baggs. She really moves me.

A while back I posted a link to a page called Getting the Truth Out. Many of you were moved by it as was I. That was my first exposure to Amanda. I then started dropping by her blog Balastexistenz. But the main thing that brought on a major change was viewing her videos.

Here are a couple of them. I know the second one is long. It may be difficult for some of you to watch but please stick it out until the end. You will be glad you did.

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Daddy, will Tiger be autistic in Heaven?

Friday, May 11th, 2007

A few years ago, my son Alex asked me, “Will Tiger be autistic in Heaven?” I have to admit that at the time I said no. I had a whole different outlook on things then. I viewed autism as a disease instead of a way of being. Now, I have come to a greater understanding.

It is my understanding of scripture that in Heaven we will be made, “whole.” So, missing eyes, teeth, toes and arms will all be replaced. But, autism is not a missing thing.

I am amazed at how Tiger drinks in creation. He communes with his surroundings in a way I never would. There are things about his perception that are uniquely autistic. He sees order where I do not. He is fascinated by textures that I dismiss. He is interested in tastes that I will never try. In many ways, Tiger is more “whole” than I am.

Will Tiger be autistic in Heaven? I certainly hope so. I’m sure he won’t have sensory overload anymore. But I don’t think his senses will be dulled to accomplish that. He will be whole enough to enjoy all of the splendor and glory. He won’t have problems with social awareness anymore. But that won’t stop him from noticing the often missed patterns and order either.

It comes down to the fact that none of us are whole on earth. We have to understand those who differ from us to see what we have been missing. Then we become a little more complete. We may not be any more alike, just more complete.

So, will Tiger be autistic in Heaven? That depends on how you define autism. All I can tell you for certain is that we will all be “whole.” I can’t see Tiger’s wholeness excluding his wonderfully autistic attributes. I can’t see my wholeness excluding some of those either.

A Failure to Communicate

Monday, May 7th, 2007

I know a bunch of you would have preferred a picture of Joy Harmon but this is a family place.

Sunday after church we met for dinner with our “ambassador” family. The new church connects new families with families that are already there. Our ambassador family is fantastic. I enjoyed our time with them and they seemed to enjoy us as well. They were affable and interesting. I look forward to getting to know them better.

Now let me move on to the subject matter. About halfway through the visit, Tiger started to get restless. We figured he had simply used up all of his good behavior. So I firmly returned him to his chair each time he would wiggle out of it. This went on for a while. When we arrived at the house, the boy zoomed straight into the bathroom.

What we had there was a failure to communicate. Getting words out of Tiger is a pretty tall order. He uses the book pictured below to put together sentences using pictures. Then we force him to speak the sentence. Needless to say, we left this book at home.

Solutions are typically simple. Problems are not. Our problem was completely different than we thought it was. But the solution was simple. So is the solution to this communication problem; we should take the book everywhere.

A couple of years ago I watched an episode of Two and a Half Men. In the story, the adults can’t figure what is bothering their boy. Following their assumptions winds them up in psycho-therapy. The only therapy the boy actually needed was a glass of prune juice to get his digestion right. He had to get something completely different out of his system. There is a lesson there for all of us.

Eventually, Tiger will speak up and tell me things. Until then I’m not so sure I should assume that he is misbehaving. Second guessing someone’s thoughts or motives seldom works out well.

The Last Day

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

My church is finished. Today we read the will. We had decided to merge with a church that was strong and could help us. Today we held the last worship service. The plan is to remodel the building while it is closed. In August, there will be a contingent who will come to the old building and start over from scratch as a plant church.

I did say we read the will. For those of you who are not familiar with Restoration Movement Churches (Christian Churches, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ and some others) and their history, let me give you a little background. An important document in the movement’s history is The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery. One of our members used that document as a basis for the Last Will and Testament of Pitman Creek Church of Christ. We read it and said Amen. It is done.

Now I am a member of the oldest church in Dallas, the Highland Oaks Church of Christ. I have attended there a few times. They have a special ministry for special needs children which provides care for Tiger. I hope to move into this ministry as soon as we are all wired in.

I’m getting acquainted with the man that has grown that ministry from nothing into what it is today. I like and admire him. He is more experienced than me and I hope that he will use that experience to mentor me. He has worked with Special Olympics for years and I can’t let that experience go untapped. I’m very serious about helping autistic people and their families. I think that this may be the perfect place to do it.

I don’t know if I will be part of the group that comes back to Plano or not. I guess I’ll figure that one out when I have to. Whatever happens will happen and I will be a part of it.

When I was a boy, I used to climb up the windmill. My grandfather would put down his hoe and walk over. He would reach up with those big hands and gently call for me to jump. I always did. He always caught me.

Leaps of faith are not so difficult for me. Especially when I see those hands reaching out and that familiar voice calling me. God keeps catching me. I’m going to keep on jumping.