After much research, I think I can safely say that there are good things and bad things about autism spectrum disorders. My husband has been so helpful in giving me his perspective. He grew up in the days before aspergers had a name, and he was labeled learning disabled. Now that I have been able to get a pretty clear picture of what aspergers looks like, he has been able to confirm that he struggles with those exact things. So here is a sample list of pros and cons.
- black and white view of the world
- hard work and devotion to a task
- connection with animals
- self motivation
- ability to work out problems systematically
- Torah is easy to follow
- high intelligence
- sensory overload
- loss of self control
- self centered egotism
- difficulty with empathy
- inability to read social cues
- frustration in groups of people
- difficulty maintaining friendships
- difficulty with compassion
Doug (my hubby) really appreciates some of the pros and doesn’t want to lose them. He definitely wants to get rid of the meltdowns and sensory overload, though. So we are working on a custom battleplan to help him achieve this.
The main place where I feel that standard medical protocols fails is the failure to realize that we are complex people. Our physical health affects our emotions. Our spiritual health affects our physical well being, etc. We are interconnected. That’s why Torah teaches us to love YHVH with our minds, soul, strength, and heart. Only changing his diet may not be effective. Only studying Torah and praying may not be effectice. We need to build him up as a whole person to truly help him.
- I feel that diet changes are crucial to his physical health. We are working hard to eliminate all preservatives. This is no small task! I thought I was doing quite well making our food from scratch, but I still have several foods to eliminate. I also am exploring the importance of enzymes in healing and helping the digestive tract. I’ll have more info on that as I learn more.
- I am trying to help Doug identify “triggers” that usually lead to frustration or even a meltdown. (Yes, a 44 year old can still have meltdowns. Not pretty.) For example, we have decided to not tackle any projects on Preparation Day. There is too much stress and time pressure. I need to be free to prepare food and the home for Shabbat. Also, he has asked that the entrance to the home be tidy when he gets home from work. He is usually overtaxed from dealing with people at work and needs calm when he gets home.
- We are studying Torah on a daily basis, not just on Shabbat. The more his mind is filled with Torah, the more capable he is of keeping everything in perspective. He is able to have more of the heart of YHVH and thinks less of his own priorities.
Sadie is 4 1/2 years old, so my approach with her is very different.
- My diet approach with her is pretty much the same as with Doug. It will apply to the whole family.
- I am giving Sadie more schoolwork rather than less. She talks better and behaves better when she is being challenged academically. She has been working diligently on her letters and I have seen significant improvements in her drawing and writing abilities. She has also taken great interest in jigsaw puzzles.
- I am teaching Sadie appropriate responses to situations through stories and simple explanations. When we read Torah together as a family, we make practical application. When we read about Rebekah at the well, we pointed out that Rebekah was quick to help others. Remember that Torah is the foundation, but all of Scripture teaches us YHVH’s principles for living. We also are holding Sadie accountable for her actions. She gets in trouble for mistreating others just like everyone else. Most of the time, I am able to get her to stop screaming if I am quick to act, but not always.
So, that’s our battleplan right now. We want to enhance the good qualities and minimize the negative ones. We want to treat the whole person. We want to emphasize that the choices we make should please YHVH.