Autism Awareness Month highlights issues of faith, friendship

By Lia Hillman, Editor-in-chief

April is Autism Awareness month. According to Autism Speaks, 1 in 68 children has autism spectrum disorder. While I am not an expert on autism, I have recently reflected upon my experiences with those who are autistic.

More specifically, I’ve reflected on what my autistic friends, Ti and Callie, taught me about faith.

I’ve known Ti most of my life. Recently, he began working as a pet grooomer, so I have had a chance to reconnect with him when I see him at work.

However, in junior high and high school, I would often get annoyed at Ti for not listening to the teachers and always wanting to play pranks on people.

His mother, being a single parent, told me she tried her best to teach Ti how to be self-sufficient, even with autism. She always wanted him to be able to achieve whatever he wanted and think however he wanted without depending on anyone for help. She was very successful in instilling him with a sense of possibility, grace and potential.

Ti was able to attend and graduate from a college in New Mexico with hopes of being a veterinarian’s assistant. It wasn’t until after I started college that Ti and I really became friends.

Our friendship grew, but I wasn’t aware of what a good friend he can really be until just recently. I took my dog, Molly, to Ti so he could groom her. He and I struck up a conversation about him graduating from college and living by himself for the first time. He asked me about my experience with school, and I told him I was struggling with a class.

The next morning at church, he made it a point to tell me that he would be praying for me while I was at college–and he did, dutifully.

In the years that I’ve known Ti, I’ve always been amazed by his faith in God. He wasn’t ever shy to tell people he loved Jesus. At church or worship events, the entire room could hear Ti sing.

It was always off-key, but still genuine worship, nonetheless.

According to his mother, comprehending the Bible and having faith in Christ can be hard for those with autism.

While she always encouraged Ti to go to church and read his Bible, she could have never forced him to believe in Christ.

She said that the very fact that believing in God and Jesus came naturally to Ti was amazing.

Ti may never have a deep theological understanding of Christ and faith; however, it doesn’t mean that he can’t be a living testimony of child-like faith.

While Ti has shown me how to have child-like faith, my friend Callie has taught me the importance of having knowledge and understanding of the Bible.

My first real interaction with Callie was in high school when I was at a children’s church camp as a student sponsor.

It was the first time her parents had let her stay overnight somewhere with someone other than family or close friends and they were concerned she would be nuisance, but that was not the case.

Callie took a liking to me and followed me around everywhere.

I enjoyed her positive presence and incredible knowledge of Phineas and Ferb.

She also told everyone she came in contact with that Jesus loved them and Jesus loved her, too.

During the afternoon free time, Callie stayed back with me at the cabin to help clean.

She pulled out her Bible and began asking questions ranging from how God created Adam and Eve to how Mary became pregnant.

It was then that I realized that sometimes the “Sunday School” answers were not always going to be enough for someone who didn’t quite understand.

However, I also realized that phrases like “ancestral sin” and “immaculate conception” were not easily understood.

I may never know if Callie will fully comprehend the Bible as truth, but I know that she’ll always understand that Jesus loves her.

I’ve been encouraged in my faith and understanding of the Bible by both Ti and Callie, and I am grateful for their friendships.

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