What I Have Learned From Autism

When he was four years old, my wife and I began to zero-in on the uniqueness of our firstborn son. Matthew’s peculiar patterns started to emerge with greater clarity and confusion, leading two concerned parents into the doctor’s office for testing and evaluation.

Learning about Asperger’s Syndrome has been an education. But not just about our beautiful son, about life and people . . . and about our selves. One of the big revelations was to recognize how much my own tendencies leaned in the same direction. In that way, Matthew and I have a bond. We are in many ways the same. My mind, too, is always spinning. Like Matthew, who is incredible with puzzles and whose mind sees pictures, I, too, am a visual thinker.

Recently we had a chance to hear autistic professor, Dr. Temple Grandin speak about “Different Kinds of Minds.” When she reached her forties, she had an epiphany that others did not think as she did. In her research, she outlined four distinctive types of minds: Visual Thinkers (Photo realistic), Pattern Thinkers (mathematical), Verbal Thinkers, and Auditory Thinkers. She, being autistic in wiring, is a visual thinker. Her hand-drawn pictures of how to better handle livestock not only landed her a job, but also made her one of the nation’s leading animal welfare advocates. She has authored multiple books, one of which is called: “Thinking in Pictures.” As she talked about the different minds strengths and how we need each other, I again noted how much I am like my son.

Over the past years, God has revealed what he wants to do with my visual “picturing” way of thought. I wrote a book. In that recently published work called Soul Whisperer, I created many pictures of what it takes to influence people in the unseen spiritual realm. The diagrams within originated from my hand drawings on paper and white board. From them, I have designed materials for classes that are also getting published.

Another distinction Grandin talked about was how there are Top Down and Bottom Up thinkers. Bottom Up thinkers form concepts from specific examples. They pay attention to detail—scrutinizing how things work in the nitty-gritty. Top Down thinkers form the concept first; then make applications. In this way, Top Downers tend to get disconnected with the way things actually occur. Thus, her argument: we need each other.

Leaving the lecture that night, I could not but personalize her analysis. I, like her, am a Bottom Up type. I build and design from the bottom up—picturing how it works with great specificity. It explained why I struggled so much with my doctorate studies, where most of the writers were top down theoretical. I found myself questioning how so many experts could champion the call to mission, but remain unhelpful. One guy wrote a book on evangelism, without any stories of him actually reaching anyone! I’m not kidding. Perusing his pages, I’m dying. How can he write without all the necessary, HD colorful, empowering details?

Contrastingly, my book is loaded with real stories and ground level insights on how to interact and interface with people who do-not-yet know Jesus. Why was that so important to me? Can you see the connection? It’s because I am an offshoot of autism.

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