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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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Asperger's Syndrome Explained

Asperger's syndrome is briefly explained in PBS’s episode of Arthur When Carl Met George. A recent Live From Seattle interview did not allow sufficient time for an in-depth response to how accurate this explanation is. It is accurate for children. Aspergers may not be as obvious in adults, especially women. Aspergers is who one is; not what one has or does. A swimmer is a swimmer because he swims. An Aspie is an Aspie regardless of what he or she does.

In this kid’s show George said,

“One of the reasons I like Carl is that he is really honest. He’s also an amazing artist.” 

We get an idea of why it is Aspie males are seen as professors. Arthur has no female version of an Aspie. Few know Aspie females are seen as philosophers. Both genders may be gifted in creativity.

Once an Aspie starts explaining something, it becomes challenging for him to know how much is enough. One suggestion is for the neurotypical person to put up an index finger to let him know when the message has been comprehended, or when there is no desire to hear it. It’s only fair to allow the same courtesy in reverse. Unfortunately, NTs prefer to not respond.

Carl kept on gushing out his knowledge about trains to George when George waved his hand for him to stop. It wasn’t that Carl lacked empathy towards George. Carl was excited and wanted to share his excitement. His intent was not to impress. George did not make Carl feel nervous. George knew Carl was not negatively judgmental. He knew Carl looked for the good things in others and appreciated them, even though George didn’t understand Carl. George respected Carl’s different way of thinking.

Many adult Aspies do get nervous around NTs. Realizing you’re being judged, along with knowing it will likely create misperceptions and future problems, triggers frustration.  This may be the main reason Aspies have to devote nearly every ounce of processing energy they have to decoding the words others say to them. NTs don’t seem to bother to try to understand. Judging and labeling is easier and faster than putting effort towards understanding how Aspies think differently than NTs. Aspies crave to know why for many things. NTs generally don’t.
Aspies learn to expect being ignored by NTs, along with figuring out they’re usually not interested in anything Aspies have to say. An exception to this may be when a NT has a loved one who is an Aspie. This isn’t always the case. There are plenty of NTs with a beloved Aspie in their life who have no desire to hear input from a non-loved Aspie. Those are the ones likely to shove their misguided assumptions about Aspies onto others without any thought or care towards the destructive consequences of their actions. There may be some NTs who are interested in what an Aspie has to say, but they may be too embarrassed to let on they don’t understand.

In this Arthur episode about Aspergers, George is an exceptional friend to Carl. It’s an example of how children can be more accommodating than adults sometimes. In the adult world, George most likely would not like Carl. Adults are more set in their ways. When a NT adult is pushed out of his comfort zone by an Aspie, he most likely will unwittingly build up reasons to dislike the Aspie. This helps him avoid feeling guilty for treating an Aspie in a way he would not like to be treated. Given that most people are NT, this is easy to do.

Also in this episode, Aspies desire,

“You wish the scientists back on earth had given you a guide book to the strange planet but they forgot to pack one so you have to try to learn things all on your own.” 

Aspies are constantly trying to figure things out on their own, especially the older generation. The Golden Rule is confusing to Aspies. When an Aspie treats a NT as he would want to be treated, he may be shunned. Carl was honest about his thoughts on George’s picture of a lion when he told George he doesn’t like brown. Aspies don’t get hints. NTs love them. Even a NT 3-year-old will be far superior with regard to his ability to understand the pretense of others. Aspies need things direct. That’s why it’s easy for NTs to manipulate Aspies and bully them.

Attractive Aspie girls are particularly vulnerable to being taken advantage of by NT boys, especially if they’re not trained up by the words of scripture. God’s word in the Bible is an Aspie’s best hope against a life filled with mistakes. This is no different for NTs. The truth of the gospel has the power to set character disturbed manipulators free. It also can set victims of bullying free from becoming increasingly neurotic. If the show Arthur was a Christian one, they would have said the scientist who created earth did pack a guide book to the strange planet we live on. The Bible is a guide book for everyone.

The message we need to remember is this:

If we personally reject God’s unmerited love, it will be evident by our contentment to find fault in those whom we don’t like. Whoever would rather forfeit eternal life than give up being self-righteous, foolishly trusts in himself and privily despises others. Only the humble will say, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
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Friday, February 20, 2015

Our Interview on KGNW

The outcome of our interview on KGNW, Live From Seattle with Michelle Mendoza last Wednesday, is based on an e-mail from Michelle. Since the Asperger Ministry is based on the east coast and KGNW is on the west coast, we had no way of knowing how it went.

No one outside of KGNW's broadcasting range could hear any part of the show. Their Internet audio feed was experiencing technical difficulties, along with their station and website. Apparently those who were within the station's range missed portions of the interview. The interview will be re-broadcasted.

Here are sections of Michelle's message received on February 20th containing the outcome of the interview, along with other details:

We are at new studios (our 2nd day) we had no internet, trouble with telephones that did not work for the first quarter of the show, our technical difficulties were unprecedented. Because of a line difficulty and having to work out the kinks in our new studio, we must re-broadcast the interview.

Please know that your interview was fantastic! You were interesting, articulate, heart warming. What portion that did actually get out over the air delighted listeners who emailed us that our signal was going in and out and wanted to hear more.

We heard stories of many who are Aspies and their families. They were so grateful that we took the issue on, so excited that there is a ministry dedicated to this issue. Those who had never heard of Asperger's were grateful, they now understood folks that they worked with or knew. 

You impacted people!  Our listeners heard a Christian Aspie who proudly took on challenges, rose up and praised God in them and is using them to help others ditch the stigma and rejoice in who they are.

I pray that this ministry of yours blossoms. 

Michelle asked for an opinion on PBS's episode of Arthur: When Carl Met George explaining about Aspergers. The feedback aired was brief. A more extensive one is in the plans for a future post. (In some countries this episode was called "George and the Missing Puzzle Piece.")

KGNW is the Northwest’s premier Christian teaching and talk station with a 50,000 watt reach that includes all of the greater Seattle Puget Sound area, along with a strong listenership in nearby Canada. We feature world class bible teachers plus experts on a variety of topics ranging from raising families to legal matters, from finances to health, and from building strong marriages to counseling. KGNW provides a platform for national, as well as local hosts, who are all working towards one common goal... to build up the body of Christ.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

God at Work

How does one know when God is at work? A good sign is when things happen that one has no control over. Paul planted churches. Apollos watered them. But it is God who causes the growth. [1 Corinthians 3:6-9]

This Asperger Ministry is a seed designed to bring forth fruit for the nourishment of two different cultures – neurotypicals and Aspies – mainly those within God's family. Its seed is as small as a mustard seed. [Luke 17:6]

There are multiple Apollos' to water this ministry. God's timing is perfect, but sometimes it seems He acts surprisingly fast! Ten days after this ministry began, God worked anonymously.

Last Friday, February 13, the Asperger Ministry received an e-mail from the producer of Live From Seattle with Michelle Mendoza on KGNW 850AM radio. It was an invitation to do an interview about Aspergers, what it is, and about the Asperger Ministry on Wednesday, February 18, 2015 at approximately 4:50pm PST/7:50pm EST.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 is International Asperger's Day.

The outcome of this interview will be posted on Friday, February 20th.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. [2 Corinthians 4:4] However, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. [Romans 10:17]

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. [Romans 8:5]

This ministry understands the unbelieving mind.
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Friday, February 13, 2015

Judgmental Congregation

Church surveys consistently reveal the greatest need in the body of Christ is acceptance, fellowship, and inclusion! This means include and accept everyone.

Quoting a neurotypical's observation (from Joni and Friends, Part 2: Truth for the Church; section 18:15), "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."

What makes someone think it's Aspies who are incompetent? The neurotypical majority's opinion? What exactly is incompetent about a neuro-A-typical individual? Wouldn't the incompetent one be the person who doesn't know what to do or how to think?

Teddy & Chiliswoman answer the question, "Why do some NT's find people with Asperger's so unlikeable or annoying?" quite accurately by saying, "...they (NTs) do become annoyed - at them self because now they don't know what to say or do. They have to think about how to converse with you (the Aspie). It is no longer natural and ordinary. Some people are so uncomfortable with that that they cannot continue the conversation, others muddle through, and some excel."

Many accuse adult Aspies of creating their own problems. This thought places the blame of rejection on the victim. It is no different than telling a woman who was raped she must have somehow asked for it.

It's commonly said people with Aspergers are anti-social. This perpetuates the notion that Aspies are to blame for lacking fellowship among the church's congregation. Expressing a desire for a prayer partner for an Aspie can result in being told, "There are Christians persecuted in other countries who don’t have a prayer partner." A pastor may also say, "Aspergers is something psychologists made up." Yes, they made the label up. However, things don't need a label in order to exist. Labels are a communication tool.

The church needs Aspies as much as Aspies need the church. God created man in His own image and we are all one in Christ Jesus. The body of Christ is not complete if it does not fellowship with the believers who are a social discomfort. Social discomfort is a two-way street.

The American Association of Christian Counselors includes the post Asperger’s Syndrome and Spirituality. In it, Rev. Stephanie C. Holmes, M.A. recalls a time in her daughter’s life when she was not drawn toward the church or Christians. The reality of many Aspies’ experience with religious hypocrisy grieves her. She explains why individuals with Aspergers need the church to BE the body of Christ.

It is hypocritical to think Asperger individuals are the only ones with poor social skills. What worse social skill is there than to reject a person simply because she may take you out of your comfort zone?
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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Feelings Can't Hurt

Feelings can't hurt, but they can direct you towards what is in pain. The ego is fragile. It is capable of encountering painful experiences. It can because it's empty by nature. Because ego is naturally void, it's always busy trying to fill itself up. This is gleaned from Dr. Timothy Keller's 40 min/26 sec audio sermon Blessed Self-forgetfulness.

Feelings are the messenger; not the message. Just because we may not like a message we receive doesn't mean we focus on the messenger to fix it. The source needs attention. In the case of feeling offended by others, others are not the source of offense. Self is.

Others can't make us feel a particular way without our consent. It's relatively easy to push a proud person's buttons.

A truly humble person can't be made to feel hurt or offended. Humility is thinking of yourself less. It is not thinking less of yourself. The more we know how much God loves us, the more we love Him. The more we love Him, the less self gets attention.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Everything flows from our heart; not to our heart. When we love God with our entire heart, we must guard that love from other loves seeping in. Anything over-riding our love for God is idolatry.

Our love for God is the root from which the fruit of our love for others ripens. Without this root, our love for others is not agape love. It's selfish and makes our ego vulnerable to pain from external sources. With this root, our ego is not fragile or empty. It will enable us to be strong in the Lord.

Anti-bully legislation sparked by no tolerance for bullies is good, but it isn't the solution. Christ's righteousness is. Those who bully others do so because they are enslaved to their self-pride and their egos are empty. Our worst bully is self-pride.

Bullies are not bullies because they lack knowledge or don't have sufficient intelligence. It's because their hearts are without God's love. Teaching does not stop bullying. A broken heart and contrite spirit, willing to repent and be a new creature in Christ, is what is necessary.

We are to pray for our enemies. If God saves them, that's wonderful. If He doesn't, then that's okay too. He will avenge His enemies. We don't know who they ultimately are, so it's best for us to leave vengeance in God's hands.

It is God's will for us to protect ourselves as much as it is in our power to do so. God gets no glory from us being doormats. What we can't control, He can and will.
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Friday, February 6, 2015

Taking Things Personal

There are two opposite ways of taking things personal. One way displays class. The other way lacks dignity.

1 Peter 4:13 tells us, "to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation." We can only do this by faith and being humble. Meekness is classy.

There is nothing dignified about the flesh. It's human nature to feel hurt when someone rejects us. Generally speaking, Aspies are challenged by this pain more than neurotypicals. We're less successful at making friends. We forget life isn't about us. It's about glorifying God in our sanctification process.
We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28

God can use what is meant for evil to work together for our good. For example, He can use ROTTENeCARDS to help end a habit of taking rejection personal. A website like ROTTENeCARDS reveals how depraved humanity is. Society is becoming increasingly proud about its shameful attitudes and behavior.

Aspies may often wonder "What did I do wrong now?" when a neurotypical acquaintance does not lead to a friendship. It's possible the NT acquaintance may love worldly ways (2 Corinthians 6:11-18) or he may be uncomfortable having to think about how to converse with an Aspie. A Christian Aspie may be shunned because of Christ and/or because of not being neurotypical.

It's not difficult to offer up the sacrifice of thanksgiving in our tribulations when we have right perspective. If we see by faith the wisdom of trusting God to know what He is doing and realize how foolish it is for us to think we know what's better for our own good than He does, He will make us glad with exceeding joy! Faith is the cause. Joy is the fruit. Being glad isn't the cause of everlasting trust in God. It's the outcome.

We feel like we think. To question our Heavenly Father's ways may seem like it is the result of feeling disturbed. Doubting God is sin. Unbelief is the root of sin. God does not lie. He tells us He is good. Satan wants us to judge God. God wants us to unconditionally trust Him.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:9
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