Disorders, Syndromes, and the Spectrum

Did you know that April is Autism Awareness Month? Newspaper articles and talk-back radio programs have focussed on it this week. It’s interesting to see how much information is out there. I guess you’ve all heard of Autism, but do you know much about this so-called disability?

For several years I’ve been reading about Asperger’s Syndrome. In some countries it’s now been absorbed into the same classification as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I’ve read books by experts, those who suffer from it, and even by some who are thrilled to have it!

At first I tried to discover information from Christian sources, but there wasn’t much written on Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) by church people. So I went to the experts who’ve been tracing the origins, the symptoms, and lives of those who are considered to be living somewhere ‘on the Spectrum’. 

I tend to think of this scale between two extreme points as a kind of clothesline! The occupants don’t choose where they ‘sit’. That depends on their individual difficulties, whether sensory issues, how well they interact in social situations, their speech, or some other differences that inhibit their ability to behave like ‘everyone else’ in the world. I’ve even found some who are pegged on the line in my own backyard! I used to be bothered about what people might think of me, being married to such a quirky man! Of course, I have my own oddities, and so do we all! He’s extremely relieved to find himself there, and now I’m learning to relate to him in a new way. 

If it’s acceptable for psychologists to conjecture that certain living (or deceased) people are supposed to be ‘on the Spectrum’, such as Bill Gates, Einstein, singer Susan Boyle, and even the cartoon character Charlie Brown, maybe it’s permissible for us to detect similar traits in those on our own family tree. It’s interesting to learn about Asperger’s traits and then come upon them in those we know. 

After researching this from a secular viewpoint, I returned to my original plan and sought God’s opinion. Does anyone believe that he gives us ways to live for him in spite of our Asperger traits and issues? In his sovereign way, the Lord who made heaven and earth may have given Aspies differently-wired brains. But does he excuse them if they don’t always get everything right in the majority neuro-typical world? How many so-called ‘normal’ people justify themselves when they have difficulty living a holy life! What reasons do they give for being unable to exercise self-control, for instance? Those with autism aren’t the only ones with personality quirks!

In my search, various Bible verses came to mind, such as Galatians 5: 22-26. 

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

There is some therapeutic help for Aspies who desire to overcome their ‘natural’ weaknesses. Good on them if they’re willing to give it a go! Some pray for healing; others say it’s a lifelong problem to be managed. But Christians believe they have a responsibility to trust God to help them to live as Jesus did. 

I don’t have all the answers to these questions; I’m still new at this subject. I’ll wait and see what happens as time passes. It may depend on how severe the symptoms are in each person. I’d like to hear from Christians who are more experienced in this field. 

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