Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Christians, It Takes Only Minutes of Your Time to Help the Autism Community

Hello, fellow Christians,

I know that we think of people groups in terms of race and ethnicity, and we should. The Bible portrays them in these terms. I would like to call your attention to a people group that is found in virtually all countries, including on the continent of Africa. They are identified by diagnosis, and all those who are associated with them are part of this community, including their parents, other relatives and those who work with them in schools, in counseling settings or on the job. I'm talking about a community that you may have heard of: the autism community. Just as we are all familiar with "the Deaf community" and the Black community" and even "the LGBT community," we need to know about the autism community.

These are often people with unmet needs. If they or their families have money for autism services and can afford to pay out of pocket, they may be able to afford to buy costly autism services, first, to get diagnosed to access these services in the first place, and then to get those services to reach their God-given potentials. Also, many of these people feel typically misunderstood by most in the Christian community, and tend to sympathize with LGBT people in feeling rejected, misunderstood, excluded, and bullied. Autistic persons have much in common with LGBT persons in that they are usually victims of bullying and abuse, feel judged by the Church which they often feel does not value their abilities and differences, and are passionate about their cause, autism. Autism services are usually not included in health insurance plans, Medicaid covers autism services for children only, and many health care providers do not work with Medicaid plans. Result? This can explain why many poor families with autistic children are often overwhelmed, overburdened, and have trouble getting services for autistic loved ones. Some parents, unable to handle the stress of dealing with severely autistic loved ones, have done the unthinkable, despairing and killing their loved ones. This by no means excuses their actions, but it can explain them. Last year, on Dr. Phil, the high profile case of an autistic girl, severely autistic and so violent that her mom was afraid of her, was covered. This mom had tried, repeatedly, to deal with her daughter and end the behavior, but one day she tried to kill this girl and the girl was removed from her custody. Then there are the many cases of autistic children (and some autistic teens and adults) who go missing because of what is known as "autistic wandering." This happens over and over! Can we just simply say, "Well, where were their caregivers?" In some cases, maybe. But is there anything that can be done to prevent many of these wanderings, which sometimes end in tragedy?

Not all autistic children are severely autistic, nonverbal or violent. Most are not violent, and being nonverbal does not mean lack of intelligence. Many children and adults have more "mild" forms of autism, known as Asperger's Syndrome or Pervasive Development Disorder. Whatever the form of autism, it looks different in each person of all ages. I have a beautiful, precious daughter, diagnosed at age three with Pervasive Development Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified. She has always been mainstreamed, has never had a complaint of misbehavior from her teachers, and makes good grades, especially in math. Her difficulties are primarily in the social arena, and in the ability to make and keep close personal friends. There are many children, teens, and young adults with diagnosed autism. More and more adults, who had grown up with lifelong challenges in academics and in the social arena, have often fought long and hard to obtain diagnoses as adults, not to get services (unavailable for adults) but to get answers to explain their difficulties. Most of these people do not set foot in our organized local church fellowships. Many have had bad experiences where pastors or other churchgoers have subtly (or not so subtly) frowned on the different behaviors of their loved ones. I have spoken with parents at past local church fellowships, who have tried their autistic children in church-based schools, and have had bad experiences because the educators were ill-equipped to deal with autism. People with autism and their families, have been sent the message by the church, in general: "We do not include you because we do not know how to, or do not want to learn how to, deal with you or your loved one." Not all church fellowships are like this, but much needs to be done. Autism is a complex disorder, and we need to educate ourselves on it. neurological Years ago, I have come across articles with titles like, "Autistic people are less likely than the general audience to believe in God," and "Autistic people are more likely to be atheists than other people." I read an article years ago, by an autistic adult, where he said that he avoids local church fellowships because he gets the message that his the social and non-autistic" values of the Church make him feel that he, as an autistic, is bad. What he may not realize and what the Church has not been equipped to convey, is that his autism does not, itself, make him bad, but it aggravates the natural sinfulness in each of us--just as many other neurological or mental health conditions do.

You may already have connections with autism, whether you are related to an autistic person, are friends with such a person, work with autistic persons, or may be interested in a diagnosis to explain your past. You may not be aware of any connections with autism. If you want to make a difference for the autism community, kindly do one or two things.

First, please SIGN this petition, if you have not yet done so. If you have already SIGNED it, please SHARE it. If you are outside the United States, you can still help by sharing this petition with your networks! Thank you!

Second, Join My Facebook Page On Autism & Related Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

Thank you Very Much for This Simple Gesture of Love To the Autism Community!

Lisa DeSherlia

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