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Friday, April 12, 2013

How To Treat a Child with Autism


I just realized that though I’ve often blogged about my son and the challenges he and I face due to his autism, and last week I complained about how people too often treat him only by his diagnosis rather than the fullness of who he is, I rarely give examples of HOW TO treat him.

The average person, who does not know my son, is not likely to have a clue since they rely solely by means of verbal communication in order to get to know someone. Because of this reliance, he or she may not know how to use the very thing my son is gifted in—heart. Though I already have a few examples of one church’s response to a member with autism (see “Jake, The Encourager”) and I also have a post by the couple who leads a ministry for special needs teens in our county (see “Young Life for Teens with Special Needs”), I have never told you how one man, who did not know my son at all, reached out to him and invited him to help in ministry.

Michael Dransfield will always go down in my memory as the man who got it right! How did he do that? By looking past the disability.

gymnasiumThe church I attended at that time held its services in their gymnasium. For this reason, it required a team of volunteers to set up and breakdown rows of chairs before and after services. After one service, I was busy chatting with a friend—as is often the case—while my son watched the hustle and bustle of the clean-up crew. Mr. Dransfield, bright smile on his face, approached my son and asked, “Would you like to help us clean up?” I quickly interceded to inform him my son didn’t understand because he had autism.

Michael—absolutely undaunted, smile never wavering in the least—answered, “That’s okay. I’ll show him what to do.”

While I himmed and hawed about whether to allow it, or if I should oversee and help—knowing he needed lots of demonstration to understand—my son had already followed Mr. Dransfield to his first chair, and was off to set it on the rack. I just sat back and watched. My son stacked chair after chair, then pushed the stack to the storage room. All at the direction of this man with a generous heart.

My son emerged from the storage room strutting like he was the man of the hour. He had purpose! Someone believed in him and waspeacock willing to take the time to work with him. I didn’t feel any of the guilt I usually feel, whenever I sign my son up for activities that would require the coordinators to find a “buddy” to oversee him. I didn’t feel the need to be the “buddy” myself. I just watched him be productive. I loved it. And what’s more, he loved it too. He was so proud and I was proud for him.

Thank you, Michael Dransfield, for giving me this beautiful image of how TO treat a child with autism. I will never forget!

Other posts you might like:

Be His Witness By Demonstrating With-ness

Do You Ever Feel Your Offering Is Too Small?

11 Days Past Autism Awareness Month

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