Autism and Religion: Raising Religious Children on the Spectrum

prayer-1269776_1280Google “autism and religion.” When I did so, I was flooded with results explaining why people on the spectrum are less likely to believe in God or participate in organized religion. Many sources explain how the desire for logical answers to all of life’s questions isn’t congruent with some of the mysteries that come with a belief in God. But this wasn’t my experience observing my brother on the spectrum as we grew up together. He appreciated the comfort of a religious routine and thrived in a religious community. Religious families hoping to offer their children on the spectrum all the fulfillment of a life centered around a belief in God can look to others on the spectrum or other religious families for guidance.

Advocating for College Students on the Spectrum

To be independent, autistic individuals must develop adult living skills, like managing a bank account, doing laundry, and maintaining an orderly living space. While attending college, they must also learn specific job skills, meet new academic demands, all while managing their emotions and developing a healthy new routine. Parents can help their autistic children learn how to cope with the different social, emotional, and academic situations they will encounter in college.

Autism Interview #11: Alex Chrenka on Communication, Medicine, and Advocacy

meThis week we have the opportunity to hear from Alex Chrenka. Alex is a commercial artist with Asperger’s syndrome. He currently is working as a Graphic Designer for a real estate firm, but has side projects involving 3D modeling and illustration which can be viewed at chrenkaart.wordpress.com. He is currently illustrating a children’s book about his experiences growing up with autism. Alex is a strong advocate for awareness of autism and helping those learn to cope with it. He has experienced the effects of medication and has had many life-changing events through those trials. Self improvement and accomplishment are the keystones of Alex’s life philosophy, and he believes no matter how difficult life gets, you can work towards a happier one by setting goals, having a positive outlook, and being a better you.

On Outgrowing Autism

outgrowing autismSomeone commented to me recently about how my son’s particularities reminded him of his own son. He joked about his son, saying, “If he’d ever been tested as a child…who knows what they [the doctors] would have diagnosed him with!” I’ve heard similar statements many times before, and, while I know they are well-intentioned (meant to show similarities between typically developing children and those on the spectrum), they still bother me.

An Interview with the Clinical Director at a Behavior Analysis (ABA) Center

Ethical challenges can sometimes arise in the implementation of ABA and other behavior interventions. These challenges may be due to power differentials, misunderstandings about autism, or differing perceptions about how autism should be addressed. I’ve discussed some of these ethical issues in a previous post, and here I wanted to offer the opinion of someone who works with autistic individuals every day in a clinical setting. The questions below have been answered by a clinical director of a behavior analysis center and are reproduced in his own words. As he mentions, ABA can be used to support the goals of any individuals, but all of his center’s clients happen to be on the autism spectrum.

Autism Interview #10: Chris Bonnello on Understanding Different Perspectives

Chris Bonnello

Chris Bonnello is a public speaker and writer with Asperger’s syndrome from Great Britain. He formerly taught primary school in Britain where he worked in special education classes with children on all areas of the spectrum. Chris currently blogs at autisticnotweird.com where he writes to raise awareness about the needs of people on the spectrum and offer guidance to those “trying to navigate their way through life with autism.” He is also working on his MA in Creative Writing.

Prenatal Screening for Autism

prenatal screening for autism

If a prenatal test existed to screen your child for autism, would you have it performed? Should sperm banks be allowed to screen embryos for an increased potential for autism? These questions explore the modern ethical dilemma of disability and eugenics, a controversy our society has grappled with for decades. This topic recently surfaced in the autism community after Ari Ne’eman, President and co-founder of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, wrote an article for the Guardian revealing that Britain’s largest sperm bank was screening embryos for autism. Prenatal screening for autism is problematic due to the variation of symptoms on the spectrum, and the ethical implications of eliminating a group of people from the human gene pool.

The Problem with Autism Labels

“Your son’s test results are consistent with a classic autism diagnosis.”

I stared at the psychologist and waited for her to continue. But she didn’t.

“Is it PDD-NOS? Or Asperger’s?” I asked.

“No,” she continued. “In order to be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, he can’t have a language delay, which he clearly has. And he has enough symptoms that fall into the classic autism category of the spectrum.”

He’s Going to Make It: A Story of Autism Perseverance and Acceptance

Individuals on the spectrum shouldn’t have to fight to survive and function each day. I’ve heard individuals on the spectrum often speak about the exhaustion of managing their schedules each day because they are trying to live in a world that isn’t always aware of and sensitive to their needs. Jodie Van de Wetering, an autistic writer from Australia, explained this to me once, saying,

“It is over and above what a neurotypical person would need, and it is disheartening sometimes that I need three timers, a whiteboard and endless reminders and checklists to achieve what other people seem to be able to do with nothing more than a slim diary. But it’s not about doing what other people do, or looking sleek and elegant. It’s about getting the job done, and this is what I need to do that.”

This reminded me of how my son fought for survival after being born 3 months early and the subsequent obstacles he has faced with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy and autism. This week I wanted to share a personal essay I wrote almost 4 years ago about how my son had been putting up a daily fight to survive and then develop after his extreme premature birth. He hadn’t yet been diagnosed with autism, but the specialists were already swarming with predictions about his future. Writing this was one of the first steps to understanding the variety of different ways autistic people experience the world and beginning to work towards supporting their needs and advocating for autism acceptance.

Enjoy!