5 Steps to Helping a Child with Autism Reach their Full Potential (Part 2 of 5)
In Part 1 of this series, we talked about how important it is to avoid treating autism as a disorder, as a child with autism has acute emotional sensitivity. This allows them to pick up on negative cues from the people around them and begin to internalize those cues as part of their personal identity. To expand upon that concept, we are going to talk about eliminating those negative cues by learning how to practice non-judgment so that a negative self-image on the part of the child can be avoided. To do so, we will have to step back and look at the big picture by first talking about the essence of the term “judgment” and then how and why to practice non-judgment.
A judgment is essentially an opinion that appears to be true. The general judgment of a child with autism is that they have a neurological disorder. This hasty judgment is based upon society’s limited perception of what it means to be “normal” and, depending upon your particular belief system, the implications of such a judgment are far-reaching. For example, from an evolutionary perspective all creation is logical, as it follows a tightly bound process of cause and effect that is expressly geared to benefit the species currently alive and undergoing evolution. When we judge autism as a disorder we are also saying that the brain has malfunctioned which further implies that evolution, that thing that has been working for millions of years (quite successfully I might add) has suddenly made a mistake that we humans need to fix.
On the other hand, if you believe in the Hand of God moving the chess pieces of our lives around as He desires, then to think that a child with autism has a mental ailment is to say that God has made a mistake. This would then prove that God is fallible and therefore – from a Christian definition of God – that He does not exist. Both of these points arise from a standard cultural norm of what it means to be a “healthy” human, and don’t take into account variety, individuality, or even potential evolutionary advantages that autism may provide.
While the debate for either of these points could potentially rage on for a very, very long time, the point I am trying to make is that simply because these children go against what most of us consider “normal” or “healthy”, it doesn’t mean that they are abnormal or unhealthy because they differ from the standardized judgment of the term “human.” It is simply a different variety of human and – as the old cliche goes – variety is the spice of life.
Now, the only way to combat the negative consequences of judgment is to practice its opposite: non-judgment or, in more positive terms, trust. Simply trust. Trust that you are capable of handling a child with autism. Trust in evolution. Trust in God. If you believe in neither of those things, then trust that everything that currently is is exactly what it needs to be. At the very least, trust that your child is perfect just as he or she is. Take it a step further, and trust that you are perfect just as you are, with all your perceived faults and foibles (which are self-judgments and completely inaccurate). To believe otherwise is to voice a mistrust in the unfolding of evolution and/or the decisions of God. Evolution is not designed to make things worse and God is not here to see you fail. Is it possible for you to trust that there is something God feels you can gain from your relationship with this special child? Or is it possible for you to trust that evolution has an idea of what it’s doing? Either way, the most effective way to practice trust is through the practice of letting go, which can be most effectively experienced through the practice of meditation, a topic which we shall save for Part 3. Until then, remember that it’s about progress, not perfection!