In his introduction, William Stillman asks his readers who are unfamiliar with autism and autism-spectrum disorders to always presume intellect when meeting someone who is autistic. For a long time, autistic children and adults have been labeled mentally retarded or deficient when, in fact, they are very bright. He states, “…any one of us would fail an Intelligence Quotient examination if we were without speech, and given no advance knowledge of what to expect. Think if you were completely unprepared; a total strange administered the test in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable environment; and you were being asked to comply with odd, purposeless, or demeaning tasks never before requested of you. Such is the fate of many that have been diagnosed as autistic.” (p. 25).
Given the title of the book, you would believe it would be primarily about a divine experience between the child and God, and, to a large extent, it is. It covers a variety of experiences relayed to Stillman through parental accounts as well as those of the autistic person. Revelations, spiritual encounters and angelic protectors are mentioned and are discussed in part two of the book. There is also a chapter on ghost-like experiences.
Whether or not you are open to such experiences, this book does have something to offer in terms of teaching acceptance of children and adults with autism-spectrum disorders and a confirmation for parents and caregivers. In a world dominated by increasing global concerns, economic downturns, cancer and other diseases, children with autism have been forgotten and overlooked, and it is Stillman’s opinion that the exponential increase in autism diagnoses is “our Creator’s purposeful plan to refocus on the importance of reverence for all of humanity.” (p. 39).
Stillman’s book answered one of my long unanswered questions regarding my own child as I tried to figure out why my child would explode at home or in our presence when she had perfect behavior everywhere else and with others. His explanation is that playing and interacting with others is work for them. “This is why kids come home from school and totally melt down, prompting teachers to say, ‘but she’s fine during the day!’” He continues, “Kids who ‘hold it together’ during the day and then melt down at home have a tremendous, unrecognized strength.” (p. 99).
As a final note, he briefly covered another topic which is a hot topic among parents and caregivers of children with autism-spectrum disorders—the issue of curing the autistic child. Raising a child with autism is difficult and emotionally draining. Not only do you have to deal with the child’s behavior, the quirks and the meltdowns, you also have to deal with the attitudes of family, friends and strangers. When you put it all together, finding a cure seems easier; however, God created your child exactly the way he/she is whether they are a healthy neuro-typical child or a child with autism. Maybe that is the God connection we are looking for.
William Stillman is a writer with Asperger’s Syndrome and a noted speaker. He is the founder of the Pennsylvania Autism Self-Advocacy Coalition and is on advisory boards of several autism organizations. You can get more information on his website at www.williamstillman.com.
Disclaimer: This book was not provided to me for this review.