Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Autism and the God Connection

*Disclaimer:  Do not read this post if you are closed or even narrow minded. 
Autism and the God Connection:  Redefining the Autistic Experience Through Extraordinary Accounts of Spiritual Giftedness by William Stillman.

I must admit, I did not go to the library in search of this book.  The title seemed to jump out at me when I saw it.  Why? 

From an early age my husband and I noticed differences in our youngest child, Shayla.  We used to say she had an old soul.  She seemed so careful, so wise beyond her years.  She would stand on the sidelines and watch children of her age fall and make mistakes.  Many would say that is because of her perfectionist quality or anxieties, or whatever, but we saw something different.  Words can't describe what we saw in her, you'll just have to take my word for it.

Shayla was the earliest of my three girls to talk.  At 10 weeks old she said, "Good, good girl."  This was something we said frequently to her.  She quickly went through the Mama/Dada stage and by age two was carrying on an adult-like conversation with anyone.  Not like a typical two year old.  Her words were clear, they were said with purpose and could easily be understood by anyone who heard her.

Until one day, between the ages of 2 and 3, she declared, "I don't like people."  She has not spoken in public since.  Obviously, at age two, we didn't know the impact of this statement.  I can't recall any one event that would make her not like people. 

Around this same time, Shayla used to tell us a story about her having a brother in Florida.  Now I know many children have imaginary people in their lifetimes, but this was different.  She had so many details and the details were the same each time.  Not only that, but where on earth did she get the vocabulary that she used?

Shayla claims that she had a brother in Florida, his name is Paul Curtison.  He had a wife named Rosa.  Paul was a sailor that sailed the seven seas.  He fell overboard during a storm and drowned. 

Scary, huh? 

She also used to say that she sat with a man and watched different people and she chose us to be her parents.  Thinking this was just typical toddler talk, I played along and asked why.  She said, "Because I knew you were the right ones, you would understand me." 

Other times she told my older two girls that she was already in her mommy's body, but she let them go first because mommy wasn't ready for her yet.

Sound like a Stephen King movie?  Nope.  This really happened.

At this stage in her life, we did attend church, but were not what I would call a true Christian.  We did not live the life outside the walls of the church.  Not that we were really bad, but we did not teach our children about God and we did not read the Bible regularly.  Sometimes we read a Bible storybook to the children, but not often.  Back in those days, I was lucky to get a shower!  My time was spent homeschooling my two older children and running from one doctor to another, trying to get help for my baby.

As a baby, Shayla would come to life in the church.  During songtime she would stand straight up on my lap and make a joyful noise unto the Lord.  She didn't know the words, but she was singing nonetheless.  She truly loved this time, and would fuss if you tried to take her away from it.  Let me rephrase that, it doesn't show the significance.  She threw a terrible fit! 

At that time, the church we were attending was in turmoil, many members left, including us, in search of a more holier church.  We went to another church.  I thought it would be a perfect match since many there were homeschoolers that I knew.  Unfortunately, we didn't attend here long.  They did not embrace Shayla's form of worship.  We were told that she was being disruptive and pastor prefers that children be in the nursery so parents can worship.

Excuse me?!? I won't go there today, I'll save that for another soapbox.

Now you see why the title of the book got my attention.  There are other people like us?  Do all people with autism know God in a more personal way than any of us "normal functioning" people could ever imagine? 

In this book, Mr. Stillman refers to these people as enlightened and gives several stories throughout time of children that seem to have a personal relationship with God, our creator.

Although I was definately drawn into the book because of the name, I found it hard it to be rather dull.  It was slow moving and repetitive.   I was unable to finish the entire book, but may try reading it again at a later time. 

*Interestingly, Shayla has not told anymore of these tales since around the age of five.  This was also the time I started her on the GF/CF diet.  So could the gluten or casein peptides have contributed to this.  Many believe that the peptides cause changes in the opiate receptors, causing hallucinations in ASD children. 

*One more note to add, when Shayla attended preschool at age five, I confided these things with a Lisa, an aquaintenance, who had a boy that was similar in behavior as Shayla.  She told me that she and her husband also described their son as 'an old soul.'  Time and time again he told the same story about how he used to live in Russia. 

So, there's another glimpse from my life - unbelieveable, I know.  That's why I haven't opened up much about our personal life.  In my profile, I describe our family as quirky and dysfunctional.  See what I mean . .

Does anyone else have a similar experience?  Oh please share, and don't make me feel like I'm the only one!


Chef Penny said...

Amazing that this would be your post today. Logan told us at dinner the other night that it was dark in the closet with God but safe. I looked at him perplexed and he said , you know before I was born. I about fainted. He often talks about life before the darkness lifted. HMMMM , I am intrigued. Good review.

Julie said...

I don't have any children like this, but what an amazing little girl she must be. She sounds wonderful. I would love to see that kind of worship. I bet it was powerful!