What Autism Taught Me

This is not an informative post on Autism. This is a reflective post. More of an opinion, and really nothing based on fact.

I recently watched a movie called “Molly,” which was about a girl who has autism. Doctors find a cure that reverses her autism but eventually comes back. While she has the ability to speak, dance, ride bikes, and enjoy the average everyday activities she tells the world what it is like from her point-of-view.

Autism can be a very frustrating and scary thing for those who are not used to it. I am very blessed to have been a part of many lives of students with autism. My mom is a special education teacher and has impacted the lives of many autistic kids over more than a decade. There are many nights where she will sit down and tell me all the things she has learned from the children. It often feels that many times we are the ones being taught and not them.

Autism ranges in severity from case to case, but one thing is for sure, it is easier for them to focus on one thing verses many. They are not multi-taskers! Often the most pleasure or relief of anxiety they can receive, is by playing with a toy or narrowing in on one item or sound. It is in that moment that they take time to really understand what they are focused on. In the movie, Elisabeth Shue’s character, Molly, is stopped in her tracks by a windchime. It captivates her. The shape, the touch and the sound of the windchime pull her in and she is able to find joy from that one little bitty thing.

Ask yourself this. How easy is it to focus on one thing at one time? While you are reading this, you might have a vudeo loading on YouTube, or maybe you are having a Skype conversation. Some of you are probably watching Netflix or a show on Hulu, while reading up for tomorrows exam. This is multi-tasking and Americans are becoming quite the professionals. But, autistic children hate multi-tasking. Why? Because they can’t control all the things going on around them. They can’t fully enjoy each thing that is occurring. It kills them that they can’t enjoy thing to their full potential. And this is what has taken me aback.

Tonight I wondered why we can’t learn more from people who have Autism. We can’t we lay all our tasks down and focus on one thing? Why can we not enjoy what God has given us? In the movie, Molly asks why we don’t yell when we are upset, dance when we are happy or jump when we are excited. She says that we are so sad because we don’t show our emotions. She says we are too embarrassed, and she is telling the truth.

Why do we hold our emotions in? Why do we suppress our excitement, joy, elation, and fears? Being real and true to ourselves keeps us from having to rides these waves of emotions alone. We invite others to experience them with us and walk alongside us. Many relationships are severed and marriages are ended because emotions are not shared, but kept secret.

When watching the movie I thought of the Bible and how full of emotion each book is. Nothing is kept secret. Every emotion is covered in the Bible and shared out in the open. Wisdom is poured out by kings, prophets, disciples, leaders, ordinary people and the Savior of the world. There is times of dancing, laughter, joking, crying, weeping and praying. No emotion is bottled up and every chance to learn and grow is taken advantage of.

Where are we pouring out our emotions? What is our main focus? Is it Facebook? Is it Twitter? It it the latest romance novel or TV series? Where are you getting your wisdom from? Meredith Gray? Donald Draper? Jack Shepherd? Dawson Leery? Zack Morris? Surely these are people of perfect moral and integrity?

I don’t know what it feels like to be autistic. I don’t wish that upon myself. But, what I do wish for is to have the focus and determination they have to full enjoy each and everything they come in contact with. God has blessed us with so much and I wonder how many times I missed out on opportunities and things he has placed right in front of me and I didn’t enjoy it.

And most of all, if you have ever been around an autistic child or adult, you would know how they know a level of love like no other. Their hugs and laughter and compassion rival any normal persons ability to love. To them, love has no bounds.

I am encouraged to stop, be still and listen. I am challenged to drop all the multi-tasking and do one thing to my best ability. My hope is to smile every time I see someone with autism, because they have forever changed and challenged my heart. I want to love and live like them and I hope your life can forever changed by the life of an autistic person too.

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