My oldest son lives life from the high functioning side of the Autism Spectrum. To be exact the official terminology is Asperger’s, even though we are not into labels.
Like with our other children we see him as a unique child of God with strengths, gifts, and talents. Part of our job as parents is to help each of our sons discern God’s calling on their lives, and to journey with them in the process. Somewhere along the line we believe this means using all that God has given them to be contributing and productive members of society.
Last night I had the opportunity to be engaged by my son as we talked about theology, Star Wars, and life calling. Evidently, he has a better grasp on the book of Revelation, and other parts of the Bible, than I do. He talked, I talked. He listened, I listened. He laughed, I laughed. He cried, I almost cried. We had a good time.
I don’t know about all autistic children, and I say this because the spectrum is so wide and varied, but I do know with my son that engaging him on topics he is interested in is very important. This is of course is true for almost all of us. We engage more, and talk more on those things we are interested in.
If I talk to my son about basketball he wants nothing to do with it. If I engage him in conversation about Star Wars, the Bible, World War 2, airplanes, farming, eating healthy, or what he wants to do and be when he grows up I get 60 minute, in depth, conversations. My job is to listen and engage him in the conversation. Ask questions. Give feed back. Give him love, support, and care. (That’s how we ought to be in all of our conversations.)
Part of this process includes helping him with some of the social skills that are hard for him. As I engage him in conversation we make eye contact, we allow each other space in the midst of our word exchange, and I try to model the way a conversation is supposed to happen.
I suppose the reminder for me is I need to engage him and my other sons in this manner on a regular basis. Having conversations like this with them will definitely allow us to connect, and will help them along the path of becoming who the are supposed to be in responses to God’s call on their lives.