When I was a kid, I struggled to read. I had no trouble with the beginning or end of a word, but the letters in the middle seemed to get mixed up. The same thing happens with numbers. Periodically they will flip on me and I’ll have to redo an equation. But there has been a great gift that accompanies my challenge: I can visualize a project from beginning to end. I can see the steps that need to be followed. And I can see the finished product before it’s begun. I never thought that was different until I got married to a man who has to see the finished product to understand what I’m imagining.
When the Lord gives us great trials, He always includes a blessing. Like my difficulty with reading and numbers, my son’s high-functioning autism comes with gifts. I have discussed his particular super powers before in the article “Autism Gives You Superpowers,” but this is a different kind of gift. Let me illustrate.
A few months ago, I was overwhelmed with the huge trials many people on the autism spectrum face. They often have anxiety, ADHD, and sensory disorders thrown into the mix along with their autism. Life is not easy for them or their families. In a moment of misery, I called on the Lord and asked Him WHY so many of these children suffer. He told me that they had been given these challenges because they are needed for what is to come. They have an important mission to fill on this earth, and there are gifts hidden in their autism that will make their missions a little easier.
My friend and I have pondered this revelation, and we came up with some of the gifts of autism that will help these souls survive in our darkened world.
Gift of Protection
Now, this is just the gospel according to me. But I have thought about this a lot. In my opinion, kids with severe autism are a lot like kids with Down syndrome. There is even a sweet boy at my son’s school that has both autism and Down syndrome. I firmly believe that they were extremely righteous souls in the world before. I know their challenges are great. Some of them will never speak, and communication is very difficult. They often won’t live independently.
Their souls are so righteous that they are being tested in a different way than most of us in this earthly journey. Many times they are here to teach us instead of to learn. The Lord is protecting them from the adversary with their extreme challenges. My heart breaks for them and their families. But knowing a spiritual giant is living inside that body gives me comfort, and knowing that they’re protected is a gift of solace to my soul.
Those kids with high-functioning autism are far less aware of the peer pressure that many of us dreaded as teens. I remember getting into so many scrapes because of peer pressure. But I have seen my autistic family members all stand up to peer pressure admirably. They tell me they don’t care what other people think of them, that they aren’t going to do stupid things to be accepted. I wish I had that kind of strength many times when my friends wanted to do dangerous things. It is clear to me the gift of protection is there no matter how severe your autism is.
Gift to See Black and White
High-functioning autistic kids see the world in black and white. There is right and wrong, and not a lot in between. But if you look around at our world, it’s becoming more and more gray. That is the work of the adversary — to deceive us by making it harder and harder to tell the right from wrong. But these souls are given an inherent ability to cut through the fog, and it’s beautiful. They have a gift to see the truth far more easily, even when we can’t.
Gift to Respect Rules
Children with autism understand rules and usually follow them a lot easier than most kids. Again, with our world right now, any advantage that keeps them close to the Lord is valuable. Following rules keeps you safe, and these kids have a natural ability to see and understand the need for them. Their gift for recognizing and following rules will be a great blessing their whole lives.
Gift of Focus
I don’t know if you have seen a person with high functioning autism focus on something they love, but it’s extraordinary. They absorb information like a sponge. My son becomes an expert on anything he is fascinated about. He can tell you anything you want to know about robot vacuums. In fact, he could easily be their best salesman.
Even as a four-year-old, he would bring his vacuum along when we visited friends; while we chatted, it would vacuum. I think there are at least three people who got a robot vacuum after our visits. He has done similar things with car engines and smoke alarm systems. Sometimes it is hard to keep up with him! This ability to focus is a real gift in a world with far more information than we can absorb in a lifetime.
Gift of Compassion
When we were at the playground a few months ago, a little girl fell off the play equipment. My son ran right over and checked to see if she was okay. Her sniffles quickly subsided when she knew that she was being watched over and that someone cared how she felt.
I’ve witnessed the strength of compassion and the big hearts of those with autism as I have watched my brother helping his wife with chronic illness. I see it in my teenage nephew when he has the strength to forgive his bullies. In this world of hardening hearts, this kind of compassion is needed more than ever. Their examples are a gift to me.
I love watching my son with babies and toddlers because he lights up. He has a gift for helping them, and wants to be around them. He loves them and is so gentle with them. As the prophecy that the love of men will grow cold is fulfilled, I am confident that many of our autistic brothers and sisters will be blessed to be exempt from that curse. Their examples will help shape the world.
Last night our dog was blessed by one of my son’s gifts. She was struggling to calm down in her kennel. She barked for almost an hour until my son came into my room with an idea. He told me he was sure the dog was barking because she was lonely. She was worried in the dark and couldn’t tell if it was safe where she was. I know the dog has anxiety. She is on a prescription, but it’s not always enough. My son suggested we move her kennel into his room for the night so the dog would know that she wasn’t alone.
I was so impressed with his ability to see and understand the dog’s needs. We moved her kennel and she stopped barking right away. This isn’t the first time he has intuitively known what an animal was thinking or feeling. When he was a kindergartner, the kids in his class hatched eggs and raised the chicks. He was the only one that held his chick so peacefully that it fell asleep. Most of the other chicks were panicking as they were held by wiggly bodies. But he sat there so still that his little bird wasn’t worried at all.
Learning from Them
I love the way the Lord gives us insight when we need it. My prayer of concern for the autism community has been answered so completely that my worry is replaced with a feeling of inspiration and peace. I want to surround myself with good examples and now know more than ever that it’s the autism community that will help all of us as the world darkens. I am so grateful for the Lord and His love for us, for His perfect preparation.
People wonder why there are more and more people diagnosed with autism. I can answer that, along with the other reasons, our Father in Heaven has sent them now because they are needed. The world needs their special brand of awareness. They can ignore social pressures and focus on God in a way that is unique and beautiful. I’m so grateful God showed me that truth.
Abby is capable and caring. She is learning more about Autism and parenthood every day. Having completed training to be an RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) for ABA therapy she is beginning to understand her son. And even though she is the first to admit she makes a lot of mistakes, she is so grateful to be on this journey. She comes from a family with many autistic members. She invites us to join her, as she shares her adventures. She wishes to emphasize that Autism is a difference not a defect. If you or a family member have autism, Abby wants you to know that the challenges can be overcome, and there are blessings in autism. You or your loved one are not sick or broken. Together we will teach the world this new language.