Editor’s note: Ron Sandison is a champion for increasing awareness and understanding in the church for persons with autism spectrum disorders. His book, A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom, is being published this week by Charisma House and is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions. Here’s Ron’s story…
My experience with autism has been an amazing journey. My development began normally until eighteen months. At that time, I began to rapidly regress, losing my ability to communicate using words and ceasing to have eye contact.
When I was seven years old, the educational specialists and doctors informed my parents that I would probably never read beyond a seventh grade level, attend college, excel in athletics, or have meaningful relationships. They used the word “CAN’T.” My mom was determined to help me succeed in life by developing my unique gifts for independence, employment, and relationships.
She believed in the word “CAN.”
My mom believed that by having me interact with typical children my own age I would learn essential social skills, and by developing my talents I could gain independence and accomplish my dreams. She quit her job as an art teacher and worked full-time using pre-ABA art therapy methods to teach me writing and reading skills.
My mom found inspiration in Proverbs 22:29,
“Do you see a man skilled in his labor? He will serve before kings. He won’t serve before obscure men.”
In the 70’s and 80’s before the emphasis on inclusion in the classroom many children with autism and other disabilities only learned skills to equip him them for employment as a janitor, grocery bagger, stock-boy, dishwasher, or pumping gas—serving before obscure men. My mom was determined that would not be me.
By using art therapy, creative writing, and playtime she was able to help me develop my gifts and learn social skills. She also advocated for me to receive intense speech therapy. When I was five years old, my speech development was so delayed that my seven year old brother Chuck boasted to his friends, “My brother Ronnie sounds weird. I believe he speaks Norwegian.”
When I entered eighth grade she advocated for classroom inclusion and had me placed in all regular education classes. She instructed my teachers to use visual teaching methods since I am unable to learn phonetically due to autism.
My mom’s belief in the word “CAN” paid off.
I obtained bachelor degrees in theology and psychology (with a 3.90 GPA) and a Master of Divinity with a minor in Biblical Greek from Oral Roberts University with a perfect 4.0 GPA. I received an athletic scholarship for track and cross-country my freshman year of college. I am happily married going on three years and my wife and I have a newborn daughter (Makayla Marie), born on March 20th. Charisma House, a national publisher, has just published my book A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom.
My mom has been the inspiration behind my book. My book is unique by being the first book on autism published by a traditional Christian publisher written by an author and ordained minister on the autism spectrum. I wrote my book to offer hope and encouragement to parents with a child of autism that through faith, love, therapy and developing their gifts—children with autism can experience independence and freedom.
In writing my book I interviewed over 40 parents who have a child or children with autism who also believed in the power of the word “CAN.” I had Kristine Barnett, author of the best seller, The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism, write the foreword for my book because her determination and hope for her son, Jacob, reminded me of my own mom. I also interviewed over 40 of the top experts from the autism community to gain their wisdom.
I share my personal struggles with autism and the practical insights I learned from my mom as well as the parents I interviewed. Autism is not something you cure but refine. When you walk on the hot pavement to the beach and your bare foot steps on a sharp, jagged piece of glass…that is what autism unrefined is like – jagged autistic quirks, unfiltered inappropriate comments, out of control stimming, and relentless head banging, screaming, meltdowns. Autism refined, on the other hand, is like walking on the warm sandy beach with the bright blue ocean waves and discovering a smooth piece of glass that has been refined by the power of the ocean. A display of God’s glory. Through the book, parents will learn how to refine their child’s special interests into amazing gifts.
Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of America. Ron has published articles in Autism Speaks, Autism Society of America, Autism File Magazine, Autism Parenting Magazine, Not Alone, the Mighty, the Detroit News, the Oakland Press, and many more. He is frequently invited to speak at colleges, conferences, autism centers, and churches.
Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with their newborn daughter. Contact Ron at his website or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.