Monday, October 24, 2016

Being Avoided Is Discouraging

It should not need to be said that being avoided is discouraging, but when it comes to exposing the core reason why Aspies usually don't find a church where they feel comfortable, this needs attention.

Most Aspie Christians stay with a church for a few years and just tolerate it with hopes that it will get better. It never does. They seek counseling sessions with the Pastor to express how lonely they feel in the church. The typical response is, "people avoid you because they sense that you don't feel comfortable being around others." Notice it's not said, "you avoid people because you sense that they don't feel comfortable around you."

Both of these statements are true:
  • "I avoid people because I sense that they don't feel comfortable around me."
  • "People avoid me because they sense that I don't feel comfortable around them."
But only one is the symptom and the other is the cause. By the end of this post, it will be apparent which one is which.

The question is, "Who does God expect to create the atmosphere of comfort? The newcomer or the established group? The established group has the support network. The newcomer does not.

The established group shares the same philosophy that wrongly justifies for each member a reason to avoid the newcomer. Since none of them feel comfortable with the newcomer, all will blame the newcomer. They presumptuously believe the newcomer should feel comfortable with them since they're all comfortable with each other. This eases their guilt.

Just because some newcomers may feel comfortable doesn't mean every newcomer does. Those who are uncomfortable arrive in this condition because of reasons unknown to the congregation. Each new congregation can easily exasperate this problem.

A clique will expect their discomfort from the newcomer's presence to diminish at a much faster pace than realistically possible for the newcomer to acquire comfort.

Being in a comfortably established in a group is nothing like being the outsider. Awkwardness is going to be far more long lasting for the newcomer.

The longer someone has been an outsider, the more established his or her discomfort around strangers will be.

As time goes on, the level of discomfort the newcomer feels from being around another clique increases. This is inevitable due to the unequal balance of intensity in discomfort.

Using the analogy of an abused dog, most people would not hold the same expectation for a dog that's been socialized as a puppy in a proper environment versus one which has not.

A church group cannot judge what effect past experiences have had on a newcomer. Nor are they fit to make any judgments on how quickly the newcomer should stop feeling uncomfortable around them.

People do what they do because they can. They can when they're united. An isolated individual is as vulnerable as an animal separated from the herd.

Animals will turn against their own kind, when it's too different. It's natural for people to like those like themselves. The more different and awkward a newcomer is, the more likely discomfort will increase in the atmosphere of his (or her) presence.

The congregation thinks, "We're not uncomfortable around others. You're the one who's uncomfortable around others, so it's your fault we feel this way." This becomes more apparent during the coffee hour after the service.

Initially, "mingle time" appears to go well. But it doesn't take long before the spark of mingle time dies out. Once this happens, it becomes undeniably obvious to the newcomer he (or she) is not going to ever fit in. In fact, the longer the newcomer tries to blend, the more awkward he (or she) will feel over time because of it.

This vicious cycle the newcomer repeats with each new church only serves to make it more unlikely he (or she) will fit in with the next new church. No church will know this is what such people go through because their acceptance is established and no newcomer dares to tell any church this is the guaranteed pattern, especially knowing how much more uncomfortable he'd (or she'd) feel if he (or she) gave any hint of thinking that the church wasn't so Christian after all in their love for their brother (or sister) in Christ.

For the churches who may think they're the exception, there's the "ask for a prayer partner" test. The buck stops at the pastor and the excuses vary:
"There are Christians in the Middle East who have to live without having another Christian in their life," "Someone in your group will be your prayer partner." (Ask me months later who it is and I'll say, "I forgot. I'll let you know later, when I remember." Later never comes.), etc. 
Generally speaking, the end result remains the same. No prayer partner.

An outsider often times end up perceiving Hebrews 10:25 differently than those settled within a congregation. "Don't neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some. Encourage one another." The second half explains the first. To encourage is to comfort. When you've got Christians avoiding you because they sense you don't feel comfortable being around them, these Christians will only provide you with discouragement. This is what being avoided does. Just because a congregation gathers doesn't mean it is meeting together with the entire body.

It's easy for people to say someone who stops going to church is sinning by doing so. It takes humility for someone established within a congregation to consider himself (or herself) as possibly practicing sin by not developing the habit of encouraging a newcomer's presence long enough for him (or her) to overcome his (or her) discomfort over being around "the regulars."

Newcomers don't normally leave people who encourage them. They usually leave because they're discouraged. The congregation isn't discouraged by his (or her) quitting attendance. If they were, they'd be trying to encourage the one who left to come back. This same principle applies to couples who break up. Someone who's relieved by a relationship breaking up doesn't continue trying to make it work.

If newcomers lacked the desire to fellowship with other Christians, they wouldn't be in the habit of trying to find a church where they feel wanted. However, any habit that goes unrewarded over a long period of time will eventually become extinct.

read more "Being Avoided Is Discouraging"

Sunday, February 28, 2016

How Neurological Differences Affect Our Christian Witness

If we don’t understand how neurological differences affect our Christian witness, most likely we’ll disappoint God in this area. This applies to both Aspies and NTs. If our aim is to be a good witness, our focus will be on something we’re doing rather than on who we are in Christ. Distorted values make us dysfunctional Christians. Our sense of being of value to God doesn’t depend on what we do, but rather on who we are in Christ. Looking at who we are in Christ keeps us humble and equips us to esteem others better than ourselves. Without this lowliness of mind, attempts at being a good witness will be counter-productive.

A faulty comprehension of Aspergers destroys the possibility for a NT Christian to draw an unsaved Aspie to the Lord. A faulty comprehension of NTs by Aspies has this same destructive effect. NTs create and perpetuate distorted perceptions of Aspergers. Thanks to this bias against Aspies, myths about Aspergers continue to spread. The myth Aspies are being fed about NTs is the idea that NTs are socially superior beings. The correct view is each culture is socially different. One is not superior over the other, even though too many NTs think so.

NTs judge Aspies by what they can see. They’re incapable of knowing why they see what they do about Aspies, so they make assumptions to fit their mindset. If their mindset about Aspergers is negative, then their opinions about Aspies will also be negative. If their mindset about Aspergers is neutral, then they’re ready to apply 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 to readjust their approach for the sake of the gospel so they may win those who are different. Christian Aspies need to be the same way with unsaved NTs.

We gather from Paul's words in 1Cor 9:19-23 that Jews and Gentiles are two different cultures. So are NTs and Aspies. God does not view one as superior over the other. Imagine if Jews had myths about Gentiles like NTs do about Aspies. They’d be impotent (not important!) witnesses. NTs are incapable of thinking like Aspies and vice versa. A dog can’t think like a cat and vice versa, but they can learn to live with each other in the same environment. They can even love each other and enjoy one another. Churches can have this same harmony with a neurologically mixed congregation, but not if they can’t see the ways in which they may be insulting.

Can you see what makes this statement (said by a NT Christian about Aspies) arrogant?:

"If someone comes to me with poor social skills and I reject them, I've sinned - they didn't. So, if the Lord needs to bring people into my life who are somewhat incompetent, who in terms of communication wise are not the greatest, in order to teach me how to be more accepting of people, then that could potentially also be another benefit." 

Did you spot the myth he embraces about Aspergers? The words that reveal his arrogance and ignorance are ‘poor’ and ‘incompetent’. They’re judgmental, subjective (relative), and opinionated (biased). The accurate way to describe Aspergers is to say Aspies are as equally competent to communicate as NTs. Just because social skills are different does not make them poor.

Every culture forms their own unique social skills. Because a deaf person uses sign language to communicate, does this mean he has ‘poor’ social skills and is ‘incompetent’ to communicate? To embrace such a myth and arrogant attitude does not fit with Philippians 2:3 […let each esteem other better than themselves]. It does the opposite. It has the hearing person esteeming himself as being being better than the deaf person. Because the hearing culture is the majority, it mistakenly assumes the deaf culture supports cochlear implants. Hearing people fail to see how insulting this is. They don’t bother to enter the deaf world to see things from a deaf person’s perspective. They’d rather project themselves when they esteem themselves more highly than deaf people. Arrogance makes the hearing mind-blind to knowing deaf people think differently than the hearing group.

Arrogance seeks to unwittingly morph invalid assumptions into facts. Throughout history, this is what humans do. It’s up to the ‘suppressed’ race to not allow this. The non-suppressed too often are not conscious of being rude. This lack of awareness on their part can lead them to mistakenly accuse the suppressed group as being rude. Instead of attacking the miscommunication occurring equally by both parties, who someone is gets attacked. Aspergers is who someone is. Not some ‘disorder’ he has. The internet is saturated with toxic bias against Aspies to epidemic proportions!

Since it’s human nature to return insult for insult, rudeness attracts rudeness in return. Everyone easily detects arrogance coming from others towards them. Only by the grace of God do we detect it in ourselves and realize how we’re alienating the other person. Aspies are constantly given the message they’re socially incompetent. Aspies want to know how and why NTs think this about them, much more than NTs care to know how and why many Aspies think NTs are socially incompetent. This would be the other way around if Aspies were the majority and NTs were the minority. The communication skills NTs possess are ‘incompetent’ in an Aspie culture. If this wasn’t true, Aspies wouldn’t be puzzled over why NTs act as weird as they do.

Ignorance permits barbaric treatment. An accurate education promotes preservation. Animal sanctuaries are not created by ignorant judgmental people. Ignorance comes from ignoring. Ignore sincerely wanting to know how and why neurologically different people (i.e., Aspies) think as they do and the result is eugenics (extinction) rather than preservation (valuing life). Misjudging others is a form of protecting ignorance and perpetuating it.

Humble people are willing to do what’s uncomfortable and unnatural. They think about how to converse. When conversing is not natural and instead is strange (different), some people become so uncomfortable they cannot continue. Some muddle through. Some excel. Those who argue do so because they want to converse, but don’t want to listen, learn, and work to understand. They would if they realized it is more important for the unsaved person to feel appreciated and respected than it is for saved people to do so. As Christians, we already know we are nothing apart from Christ. Those who haven’t learned this yet, are certainly not going to be drawn to the gospel by Christians who also haven’t learned this. Instead, arguing and/or alienation is the result.

The TLB paraphrases Paul’s approach like this:

“When I am with the Jews I seem as one of them so that they will listen to the Gospel and I can win them to Christ. When I am with Gentiles who follow Jewish customs and ceremonies I don’t argue, even though I don’t agree, because I want to help them. When with the heathen I agree with them as much as I can, except of course that I must always do what is right as a Christian. And so, by agreeing, I can win their confidence and help them too. When I am with those whose consciences bother them easily, I don’t act as though I know it all and don’t say they are foolish; the result is that they are willing to let me help them. Yes, whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him so that he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him.”

The MSG paraphrases Paul’s approach this way:

“I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view.” 

The way to paraphrase this approach Paul uses in the context of neurologically different cultures is (assuming he’s NT):

“When I am with Aspies, I seem as one of them. I don’t argue even though I don’t understand their culture, because I want to help them. I agree with Aspies as much as I can, as long as I do what is right as a Christian. I don’t act as though I know more than they do or as if I’m wiser or smarter than them. I try to find common ground with them. I enter their world to learn how I may see things from their point of view.”

If Paul was an Aspie, the above would be applied in reverse.

In a reply I made on February 24, 2016 to a comment, I said focusing on being a good witness actually has the opposite effect because the focus is on self and not Jesus. We need to approach others with the mindset of Philippians 2:3. Christians, being human as we are, can easily get effect and cause subtly twisted backwards. Jesus never asked His Heavenly Father to show Him how He could be a good witness. The reason He didn’t need to do this was because He was humble. Walking in the Spirit can’t be done unless we’re humble.

It may seem 1Cor 9:19-23 requires us to focus on how we can be a good witness, as if that will cause us to become one. 1Cor 9:19-23 is actually the effect of abiding by Philippians 2:3. Only when we bypass esteeming others better than ourselves, does applying 1Cor 9:19-23 backfire. It backfires because there is no empathy or compassion due to ignorance.

Aspies also judge NTs by what they can observe. Aspies know they don’t know why NTs do what they do. They don’t try to assume to know. This is one reason why there are no myths about NTs created by Aspies. Adult Aspies don’t study NT children to see why they’re odd, but there are some Aspies who do study NT adults to try to understand why NTs function as they do. Aspies appreciate honesty, but because they’re rarely going to get a straightforward answer to the bottom line reason for why NTs think or behave as they do, they’re forced to have to guess.

In God’s eyes, there are only two types of people. Either someone is saved or they’re not. Modern secular society divides people neurologically. Either someone is neurotypical or they’re not. Too many NTs view being neuro-A-typical as something the world needs deliverance from. Those who misjudge Aspies as being “socially incompetent” are hiding from their own arrogance and insecurities.

Imagine a church filled only with Aspies. Then along comes a NT to join their congregation. How drawn to Christ is this NT going to feel if the Aspies think this visitor is beneficial to them because it helps them to be more accepting of someone who is somewhat incompetent to communicate?

Communication is a two-way street. When it fails, it fails because neither side knows how to comprehend what the other is communicating. People like people like themselves. Even if miscommunication didn’t exist, motives are always invisible. Why someone does what he does is not for anyone to judge. Only God can fully comprehend both NTs and Aspies.

Just because a message is interpreted correctly is no reason to assume to know why someone different acts or thinks as they do. Fools make assumptions when they don’t know. A wise person doesn’t.

Basically, the ONLY trait that differs Aspies from NTs is the way thoughts are processed. Windows and Mac computers have different operating systems. Put garbage data in either system, and garbage is what comes out. Arrogant pride is garbage. A humble heart is precious regardless of what neurological operating system it functions through!
read more "How Neurological Differences Affect Our Christian Witness"

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Aspergers Part of the Body of Christ

The Aspergers part of the body of Christ needs more thought. As the church contains men and women, so it also contains neurotypicals and Aspies. Women typically congregate with women and men do likewise with men when socializing.

For Aspies, socializing seems like it needs its own version of 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God."

Warning: what's about to follow is both funny and not-so-funny. It's a harsh reality Aspies learn and neurotypicals cannot honestly deny. Aspies are equipped to take things direct, so are not likely to be offended. NTs being accustomed to hints may get upset, but if thought is provoked, then it has done some good.

Aspies… Do not expect to be bound closely together with neurotypical Christians; for what partnership have Aspies and neurotypicals, or what fellowship has hyper-focus with hypo-focus? Or what harmony has complexity with simplicity, or what has a hyper-thinker in common with a hypo-thinker? Or what agreement has the straight-forward with hinters? For we are the hyper-sensitive, hyper-empathetic, hyper-intuitive, hyper-vigilant, hyper-strange part of the body of Christ!

The good news for both neurotypical Christians and Aspie Christians is that the Lord says, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty.

The main reason why Aspies can't expect social unity with NTs is because neither will think like the other. Confusion exists both ways. Aspies confuse NTs and NTs confuse Aspies. Cynthia Kim provides this great example when answering What is Neurotypical:

Sometimes NT behavior can be frustrating. For example, you may notice that NTs have a tendency to say something other than what they mean. If you get a new haircut and you’re not sure how it looks on you, don’t bother asking an NT. Most will tell you it looks great, even if it doesn't.

Why? Because when a neurotypical woman asks her friend “how do you like my new haircut?” she isn’t looking for her friend’s opinion, she’s looking for validation. When her friend says, “I love it” she may mean I love your hair, but what she’s really saying is I love you and value you as a person.

So when your NT friend says “how do you like my new haircut?” and you, being your aspie self, reply, “It’s a little short in the back but I like it”, your NT friend hears I secretly hate you and think you’re ugly.

Confusing, I know.

And good luck getting an opinion out of an NT when you really need one. It may help to preface your question by explicitly stating that you’re seeking an actual, honest-to-God opinion but, even then, the NT’s dogged adherence to socially appropriate behavior may inhibit their ability to say what they’re really thinking. Try to remember that NTs were born this way and their natural sensitivity to what others are thinking and feeling often makes it hard for them to be completely honest.

Don't think confusion will leave, especially when most NTs don't try to understand Asperger's because they don't really have to. These are words from a NT:

Neurotypicals are a huge majority in society and they have each other and can understand and relate to each other and society is "designed" for them, so they have little trouble functioning according to society's expectations. It's easier for them to just ignore the few people who are different from them than to try to understand them. Not understanding aspies has very little consequences for most neurotypicals, so they take the easy way out and don't even try.

At least ignoring those who are different is better than wrongly judging them.
read more "The Aspergers Part of the Body of Christ"

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Risk Aspies Face With Church Fellowship

The risk Aspies face with church fellowship need to be realized and respected by neurotypical Christians. This means accepting the decisions Christian Aspies make in regard to church attendance. Most Christian Aspies never find a church where fellowship is a healthy experience for them.

Typical advice to Aspies is, “Be the best you can be.” This reveals the ignorance of knowing most adult Aspies already are being the best they can be. Sadly, that’s not good enough. What’s also unknown by almost all NTs is how dangerous it can be for Aspies to keep trying to be someone they are not. Tony Attwood knows how important it is for Aspies to be true to who they really are, but Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen does not. If he did, he would not say, “More detailed studies are needed…”

This Asperger Ministry wants to encourage Aspies to be the best they can be. This means embrace being different, accept being out of sync with the rest of the world, and don’t expect most NTs to welcome this approach. What’s the risk of not doing so? Suicidal thoughts are 1,000% more likely in adults with Asperger’s.

If Ryo and Craig did this, they probably would not have committed suicide. Caroline (Ryo’s NT mother) would not have been as motivated to explain about Asperger’s and help people understand how different it is from what most of us are used to; how differently people with Asperger’s see and experience the world. Fran (Craig’s NT mother) might have understood how Craig’s “therapy” fueled his suicidal tendency.

Susan said, “Throughout Craig’s life he made herculean, minute-by-minute efforts to become or at least appear normal.” What maybe no one else knows is that he did this because of being warned by one of his therapists, “Being around someone who accepts you as you are ‘messes up’ your therapy.” Ironically, it was when Craig was with someone who accepted him as he was, who he didn’t feel like a failure with, and who genuinely welcomed his company, he removed himself from that environment because of believing his NT therapist more than his Aspie friend who warned him about trying to be somebody he’s not.

Craig once said, “If I don’t receive the approval in gestures when I’m around others in a social environment, then I feel like a complete failure until I remove myself from that environment.” Who could make him feel more like a failure than his therapists? But yet he kept going back to the therapists. The more he went to the ‘mental health’ environment, the worse he got. Going to church can have this same depressing effect.

Ryo’s mother Caroline said, “Maybe if Ryo experienced [your] Christian faith, he would not have committed suicide.” That’s probably true, but having Christian faith doesn’t necessarily mean church fellowship would have been good for him. Ryo needed to be understood; not judged.

Chris says people with AS tend to get very drained by socializing, since it draws on so much of their mental resources. A 46 yr-old Christian Aspie man says we Aspies spend most of our life being judged and misunderstood by NTs. It’s why Aspie Samantha is at her best in the alcove of solitude.

As for other Aspies…

Jenfrog says all her "heathen" friends at work have always been much more tolerant and accepting of her differences than anyone at three different churches has been. She also says no one has been as hurtful to her in her entire life as church people. She’s darn sure that she won't be trusting them with personal information, seeking to build relationships, or foolishly giving too much of herself again. She has seen these things happen with many other people, as well.

Rachel says she sees the looks when she stands off by herself—(thou shalt not interact unless thou art commanded to come)—but her interpretation skills can be a little off, so that group of women at church she sees as a minefield might actually want me to come and chat. Seriously? This is making friends? You can’t kid her.

Lynne says to this day [Sep 29, 2009], she has found very few "religious" people who have truly embodied the beliefs they espoused.  And, she can honestly say, that many of the worst things that have ever been done to her or to people she cared about, have been done by people who professed to be "religious."

Brant Hansen, a host on Christian radio, says his Asperger's syndrome makes him feel like an alien at church. He has grown up in churches and is a Christian. He states, “Feeling out of place at work is one thing. Feeling like an alien at church is a whole other matter. Imagine Mr. Spock at an evangelical Christian tent revival, and you’ll get the idea. And my father is a pastor, so I was in church a lot… It’s true, though, others won’t understand me. I know that. I’m still an alien in the American Christian subculture. Each evening I retreat from it, and I go straight to the Gospels. It's not out of duty that I read about Jesus; it's a respite. I long for it, because I'm awash in two strange and baffling cultures, both the irreligious and religious. And I long for someone I can finally understand, and someone who might finally understand me.”

NT Stephanie, when describing her Aspie daughter’s church experience says, “The most common stumbling block is a negative experience with Christians. Aspies usually want to have contact and relationships with others… Many individuals with Asperger’s believe that, since their schools, jobs or peers had rejected them or made fun of them, surely the church will be a place to find solace and understanding. After all, the Bible commands us to love God, to love people and to follow the golden rule. This sounds like a welcome refuge to individuals who are often socially rejected, misunderstood and ostracized. But too many times, Aspies experience the same rejection in the church.”

Rejection may not appear immediately. TheatreAS was blown away on his first day visiting a new church. People were genuinely interested in him, started conversations with him, and he became part of the group. This never happened to him before. His assessment is limited to one worship service. A congregation may be curious about him when he first arrives, but the reality is this interest almost always fades away after judgments are made.

NT Steve says churches are to identify the gifts, strengths, and talents of Aspies; then offer them opportunities to use them serving in the church. He does not say what Aspies are to do when churches will not acknowledge their gifts, strengths, or talents.

A pastor says his congregation watches his teenage Aspie son. Most do not understand him, but have learned how to “take” him now and be very “sympathetic.” Tolerance with sympathy shows no appreciation for gifts, strengths, or talents. Does the Bible say, “Because I am not neurotypical, I am not a part of the body?” The Bible does not say that, but the way congregations fellowship does.
read more "The Risk Aspies Face With Church Fellowship"

Friday, March 6, 2015

Pathetical Blindness

Pathetical blindness started from biased experts forcefully implanting myths about Aspergers. This ignorance continues to perpetuate. Thank God evidence is finally pouring in to reverse the damage already done. This Asperger Ministry devotes itself to the clean up work. Doing so requires exposing what’s incorrect thinking against what’s correct. Christians need to be meek (teachable, humble) and not gullible. This is not an Aspie pride thing. It is about loving thy neighbor as thyself.

We will begin with this comment by Adam from the post Why Christians Need to Care About Autism (which also needs this ministry’s help):

How would God judge a person with autism, more specifically Asperger's syndrome? Even though someone with Asperger's usually has average or above average intelligence and understands the gospel and the fact that he wants to worship God and be a good Christian, but since people with Asperger's can't socialize or communicate efficiently with others to share or grow themselves in the faith, will God judge them more lightly than say the average, normal human being?

I’m speaking primarily teenagers and adults with Asperger's here. They can try and try to be a Christian but what if they can't progress or get past a certain threshold or barrier because of their disorder, or the inability to see their own shortcomings and usually don't have a clue on how to fix or rise above them. I’m thinking Christian counseling may be one avenue these people could look towards for help?

The article’s subtitle reads What responsibility do believers have for those with special needs? For starters, we have the responsibility to treat others how we would want them to treat us. How many believers would like to be insulted? Would you feel insulted if you were thought of as being an abnormal human being; a defect? Philippians 2:3 tells us to humbly think of others as being better than ourselves.

It is no one’s business to question how God will judge others. His ways are not our ways. He is sovereign and infinite. We’re not. God is good. We’re not. God is the one who saves us. He is able to do anything He desires. He finishes what He starts. It is a sin to question God’s ability or wisdom.

We will be judged for our faith in God. Do we trust and obey Him? Anything that is not of faith is sin. Sin is what God cares about. To claim Aspies can’t socialize or communicate efficiently with others to share or grow in faith reveals ignorance and pride. God never commands anyone to do something He does not enable them to do.

To 'try and try to be a Christian' is the mind-set of a self-righteous person. We are saved by faith; not by works. It is Christ’s righteousness that saves us. The faith to grasp this is a gift from God. God is the potter. We are the clay. Whether one is neurotypical clay or Aspie clay makes no difference. Only God is able to judge the heart.

Let’s not forget Galatians 1:10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Aspies have no clue on how to fix their “flaws” or “rise” above them? God is not able to clue in Aspies to what He wants them to fix; nor is He able to sanctify them?

Fact: Asperger individuals do not lack empathy. Asperger’s theory does about-face is just the beginning of information long over-due. In the 1980’s, Uta Frith and Simon Baron-Cohen theorized Aspies lack empathy. Their dehumanizing work spread like fire. They were quick to speak and do not like to listen to what others have to say if what's said crosses their opinion or calls their research into question.

The Boy Whose Brain Could Unlock Autism tells how the Intense World theory could transform our understanding of Aspergers. The article reveals a lot about Henry Markram’s Aspie son Kai. Markram says of his son, “Everybody was looking at it (i.e., Aspergers) as if they (i.e., Aspies) have no empathy, no theory of mind. And actually Kai, as awkward as he was, saw through you. He had a much deeper understanding of what really was your intention.

Karla McLaren’s article Autism, empathy, and the mind-blindness of everyday people gives a human vision of autistic humanity. True Christians would value her input. She sums up by saying,

Today in 2015, as I watch my autistic friends creating autism-positive spaces and working for social justice for all disabled people, I witness their gorgeous and deep empathy, their boundless sensitivity, and their love for humanity. They have risen above the dehumanization of biomedical vision, and they can teach us more about empathy than we have ever known before.

Autistic people, pathologized and erased for so long by the mind-blindness of researchers and everyday people, are the only people who can help us truly understand autism from the inside out. It is time for us to embrace autistic people as valuable, worthwhile, and fully human beings with valid and hard-won wisdom.

The church should also appreciate Alex Plank’s interview with Henry and Kamila Markram About The Intense World Theory of Autism. It ends with this wisdom:

For autists, they will learn how to nurture rather than lockup the deep insight and how to contribute these insights to society. We will learn how to help the next generation of autists cope and express their individual genius. For society, we will learn how valuable the autistic community is for society.

Glory be to God!
read more "Pathetical Blindness"

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Suffering with Aspergers?

It’s not accurate to think there is such as thing as suffering with Aspergers. Aspergers is not a disorder, mental illness, or disease. It is a different way of thinking. Who does not suffer from being misunderstood?

Foreign cultures are misunderstood, unless one comprehends their different way of being. American Aspies in a foreign country often times have less difficulty getting along with the neurotypicals there than they do in their native country, especially if they rarely get to know tourists.

Expectations lead to judgments. Judgments may lead to a label. If someone’s way of thinking differently isn’t understood, being able to label him brings comfort. Oh what a tangled web psychiatrists weave sometimes when they create labels for their diagnostic manuals. Take homosexuality for example…

Homosexuality had been officially classified as a mental disorder in the APA's first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-1) in 1952. There it was designated as a "sociopathic personality disturbance." Viewing homosexuality as a mental illness was not controversial back then. Before the DSM-1, practicing homosexuality was known as sin. It still is, but not as commonly so. DSM-II, published in 1968, listed homosexuality as a sexual deviation, but sexual deviations were no longer categorized as a sociopathic personality disturbance. The publication of DSM-II coincided with the emergence of the gay rights movement.

The outcome of Aspergers having been placed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) led to stigmas, myths, and incorrect theories spread about Aspergers. Because of this, too many people ignorantly think Aspergers is something Aspies “suffer” with. Too commonly it’s incorrectly referred to as being a “disorder” or “disease.” For this reason, it is a good thing it is no longer in the DSM and will be removed from the next version of the ICD.

Aspies may seem like social deviants to neurotypicals, but to deviate from the norm is not necessarily a bad thing. If it was, people wouldn’t appreciate those who “think outside the box.” Aspies may think of solutions to problems NTs are not able to.

The worst thing about Asperger’s syndrome is that people can choose to ignore its existence because it’s not something visible to the typical person. This leaves the door wide open for others to endlessly criticize and make fun of someone who thinks differently. For an Aspie to be unaware of AS's existence can be worse than having an awareness of it. Aspies blessed with growing up in a loving family can feel safe and accepted for who they are. It’s hell on earth for Aspies who must endure being raised without an emotional safety haven that accepting and loving family members can provide.

People are not so quick these days to take advantage of, criticize, and/or make fun of someone obviously different physically (e.g., wheelchair bound, blind, deaf, burn victim, etc.). Since AS is so invisible to most people and difficult to prove to those who love to remain ignorant and skeptical (or those who don’t have the mental capacity to comprehend something as complex as AS), AS remains as the last frontier to overcome in regards to bigotry and bias.

It may be accurate to say Aspies are “suffering from NTs.” As one parent of an Aspie child put it, “I thought I would have to teach my son about the world; turns out I have to teach the world about him.”
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Friday, February 27, 2015

Aspergers in Church

Unless an Aspie discloses his Aspergers in church, it’s highly unlikely any neurotypical person will recognize it in him. It will become apparent that the Aspie person is somehow different from the congregation in general. Judgments will be made of the one who is odd. He will be avoided whether or not Aspergers is mentioned.

As the saying goes, it takes one to know one, an Aspie in church most likely will recognize another Aspie there. It may not necessarily happen consciously. Aspies tend to gravitate towards their own kind. People like people like themselves.

Without other Aspies around to fellowship with, most adult Aspies will try to mingle in during social time. Even though this is most difficult when new at a church, it always remains difficult. Never knowing what to say or how to inject oneself into a conversation is more disappointing to an Aspie than to neurotypicals.

Aspie guys in a church usually don’t encounter the same level of stress an Aspie female will. Christian women have expectations which place a lot of tension upon an Asperger Christian. Women are in charge of refreshments and meals. Hosting comes natural to neurotypical ladies. This is not so for the Aspergian ones.

Besides food management, dressing for church isn’t necessarily smooth going for Aspie females. Clothing must be comfortable. Aspies are not ones for being aware of what’s fashionable or what others think about their choices regarding what food to bring for sharing.

When an Aspie likes something, it’s likely to appear often. Changing to something different is unnerving for Aspies. This isn’t just with clothing styles or new recipes, it’s also with socializing.

Aspies do best with one-on-one conversations. Talking casually in a group setting is difficult. Aspies tend to shut down as soon as another person is added to a two-person conversation. To expect an Aspie to host a social event, even if it’s something as simple as a home Bible study, is akin to her going for surgery in a hospital.

Prosopagnosia (face blindness) is common among Aspies. This does not mean Aspies fail to recognize emotions in facial expressions. It means failing to recognize the person when something has been changed. It can be meeting at an unexpected location unfamiliar to where meeting regularly. For example, instead of seeing someone in church, one crosses paths at a shopping mall.

More often prosopagnosia happens when an Aspie sees a person who changed their physical appearance. Examples of this would be: a different hairstyle, growing or removing a beard (or mustache), wearing a hat if one isn’t usually worn (or vice versa), etc.

Changes can have a double-negative impact upon Aspies. It’s bad knowing others feel insulted when you don’t recognize them. It’s also bad when feeling creeped out by not having had time to adjust to a change in someone's physical appearence.

NTs may find it hard to believe, but it’s true that Aspies can even fail to recognize their own parent, spouse, or even long-time sibling! Thankfully it doesn’t happen often, but given the right circumstances this happens.

The lighting in a church service isn't usually a difficulty for Aspies to deal with, but sound can be. Some Aspies are exceptionally sensitive to certain sounds. For example, the pitch some women sing in can negatively affect an Aspie's highly sensitive nerves. A headache may result.

All the above should bring awareness to some of the challenges Aspies face from having “invisible”  differences NTs don’t know exist.
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