December 2009

This fact sheet on Asperger Syndrome appeared on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Website.   It is an excellent reference.

* Asperger Syndrome is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and was first included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (American Psychiatric Association) under the general category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs) in 1994. In Vienna, pediatrician Hans Asperger wrote about this cluster of characteristics as early as 1944.
* Although research on the prevalence rate for Asperger Syndrome is ongoing, it is thought that as many as 60 individuals per 10,000 have some form of an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Based on current population statistics for Ontario, this prevalence rate translates to 74,356 individuals in Ontario living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
* Asperger Syndrome traits may make it difficult for children to function well in school and for adults to find and keep employment.
* Many individuals with Asperger Syndrome exhibit extensive knowledge of a specific interest and therefore are capable of major accomplishments.
* Although Asperger Syndrome can be first detected in childhood, many individuals are not diagnosed until well into adolescence or adulthood.
* The cause of Asperger Syndrome is not yet established, but a leading theory at this time points to genetic causes. Many individuals diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome identify similar traits in their family members.
* Treatments for people with Asperger Syndrome may include counselling, psycho-education, social skills training, medication, family intervention, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, special diets, and others.
* Without diagnosis, support and intervention, children, adults and their families struggle to understand their puzzling profile of strengths and deficits.

Common Traits of Individuals with Asperger Syndrome

Social/Communication Traits:

* Despite a desire for friends, difficulty in initiating or maintaining close relationships
* Problems reading non-verbal or social cues or understanding/using social rules
* Very socially naïve and as a result are often taken advantage of, rejected, or bullied
* Social contact may be directed by them (e.g. play is “on their terms” or not at all)
* Poor (or intense) eye contact, atypical use of gestures and flat or inappropriate facial expressions
* One-sided conversations, and little ability for “small talk”
* May appear overly shy or overly extroverted, but inappropriately so
* Unaware of others’ thoughts, feelings or perceptions resulting in inadvertently appearing rude or inconsiderate
* Literal interpretation of communication from others
* Avoidant of social contact or events, and may experience heightened anxiety in social situations
* Language is learned and used in “chunks” (e.g., phrases, dialogue from TV shows, etc.)
* Communication is used for delivering information or requesting, not as a way of interacting socially

Behavioural Traits:

* May respond poorly to changes, sensory stimuli, transitions, lack of structure, and restrictions
* Repetitive movements (e.g., jumping, rocking, pacing) and speech (i.e., talking about favourite topics, interest)
* Rigid, inflexible and rule-bound behaviour
* Inappropriate behaviour given the social situation (e.g., speaking too loud in place of worship)
* Exaggerated emotional response to situations (e.g., tantrums when asked to something that they don’t want to do)
* Superior ability to focus on favourite activity or area of interest (e.g., spends hours mastering video game to the exclusion of other pastimes)

Cognitive Traits:

* Average to superior intelligence
* Detail oriented approach to tasks which may result in missing the “bigger picture”
* May have associated learning disabilities (e.g., non-verbal learning disability)
* Often have high verbal scores in a cognitive assessment, and low performance scores
* Difficulty seeing “parts-to-whole” and “whole-to-parts” relationships
* Prefer technical/factual information over abstract

Associated Challenges:

* Anxiety and depression
* Attentional difficulties (e.g., shifting attention; attending to unimportant stimuli)
* Tics or Tourette Syndrome
* Gross and fine motor deficits
* Poor organizational skills (e.g., time management and planning, partializing tasks)

Over the years, I’ve come to depend on the men and women who man our prayer lines at The Special Gathering .  At each worship service, we have at least two of our members, usually deacons, who are asked to pray for the other members who come up for prayer. 

At first, I got into the prayer line as an example.  I wanted our members to know that I respected the men and women–their peers–who had been asked to pray for them.  Quickly, though, I came to understand that their simple prayers were powerful.  Now when I say simple prayer, I mean really simple prayer.  “Lord, bless Linda’s friend.”  Or “Lord, heal Linda’s daughter.”  No fluff or puff.  Just a straight shot of prayer into the heart of God.

I especially remember one Sunday morning that everything was going wrong. In those days the Brevard programs were more interconnected.  I had the responsiblity to go from Melbourne to Cocoa many Sunday mornings to conduct both worship services.  I had come in late because of traffic.  When I set up my sound equipment for praise and worship, I found that an important piece of equipment had been left in Melbourne.  I disappointed in myself and frazzled.

Even though I had not expressed by private concerns to anyone, Judy, a member of the choir and a real prayer warrior, understood that I was hurting.  She leaned over during a quiet time in the service and prayed, “Lord, Linda’s upset.  Heal her.  Help her.  In Jesus’ name, amen.”  Instantly, God answered her prayer.   

I admit that during my private prayer time, I still try to impress God.  It isn’t a conscious action but a slow meticulous act of my mind that says to my spirit, “If you let your mind come up with just the right words.  God will be so impressed with your ability to speak a flowery prayer that He is bound, maybe even obligated, to answer.” 

Of course, this is not true but it is a struggle for me to overcome.  However, Carlos sets me back on the right path whenever I listen to his prayer.  “Lord, help Linda.  Help her son and daughter.  Help her grandchildren.” 

Paul’s instructions to Timothy found in chapter 2 verse 2 of Paul’s first letter to his young friend was to pray in every way you know how for everyone you know.  Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? 

Years ago, I did a study on prayer.  While I gleaned some wonderful pointers from the study, it made prayer seem delicate and complicated. Even though I’d been praying from the time I was a small child, deep inside I felt that I was no longer qualified to pray.  It took me a while to come back to an understanding that prayer must remain a simple exercise of a child communicating with her father.  The simplicity of prayer may be the greatest secret to prayer anyone can learn.

We Can Never Move Away from God

Genesis 28:15

Central Theme:  We can never move away from God‘s love.

Introduction–Show the Hubble telescope book and talk about the pictures from outer space.  We all travel now very quickly.  I can go to SC in 6 hours.  But it has not always been that way.  Not so long ago it took weeks to go that far.  We are beginning a study about the life of Joseph.  We begin with his going on a long journey–away from his family.

       I.     Have a member Read Genesis 28:15.

              A. Tell the story of the Joseph and his brothers who hated him.

              B. They sold him into slavery and he was taken to Egypt.

              C. He had been his father‘s favorite son and now he was a slave.

           II.     God did not ever leave him–even in Egypt when he was a slave.

                   A. God used him to help the nation of Israel to survive during a famine.

                   B. We can know that God will be with us.

                        1.  The Bible tells us. 

                        A. Ex–A woman who moved to Melb and her husband got cancer.  This was bad but she got saved and that was really good.

              2.  We have examples of actual people–Joseph, Moses, Paul, David, Ruth and many others.

              3.  We have the Holy Spirit with us as Jesus promised.

              4.  God has told us that he has a plan for our lives.

     III.     God went with Joseph and had a plan for him

              A. He will show you the plan for  your life.

Conclusion–God will not leave you not matter how far you travel.  has reported that approval of the ethics of clergy has dropped to only 50 percent.  This is the lowest the rating has been since the scandal in the Catholic church was report in which priest had sexually molested children and the Roman Catholic Church had systematically worked to cover up the abuse.

While questioning why this drop from 56 percent in 2008 to 50 percent in 2009, it is important that we not lose our perspective as ministers, teachers and elders within the mentally challenged community.  There are many pro-active things that we, as ministers, should do that will that will insure that we are not caught in a compromised situation. 

Some have reported that sexual abuse within the mentally challenged population is over 75 percent.  While we don’t believe the statistic is that high, one percent is too high.  It means that we MUST be proactive.

First, we should not be alone with one member.  Be sure that all events are public events.  Should someone need to speak with you “privately” move to another part of the room, not out of the room.  Move to a place where others cannot hear you but can still see you. 

Second, report all accusations of abuse to the proper authorities.  In every state, there is an 800 number that you can use to call and report abuse.  That number is found in the front of your phone book.  You can also Google for the number.

Third, understand that proactive steps will help to stem temptation.  Be aware, trust no one, especially yourself.

Fourth, require background checks for all volunteers and teachers in your program.  Be sure that all your teachers do not have private access to your members.

I overheard A choir director say recently, “Betty would like to be the head of every project we start in our choir.”  Betty is a higher functioning mentally challenged person.  I had to laugh because I, of course, have my own Betty in one of  The Special Gathering choirs.   My Betty isn’t willing to do the work required to obtain boss status.  She merely desires to be bossy. 

On the other hand, John has the talent, gifting and mental ability to run many parts of our program.  Even though he is mentally challenged and he’s IQ is probably equal to My Betty, he is not bossy.  Team John with Missy and Laura and they could run any program in Special Gathering.  They are that talented and motivated.  

However, they have a wonderful plus that Betty and My Betty don’t possess.  They don’t try to run things.  They aren’t even bossy.  Paul instructed Timothy that there is a danger in usurping yourself into a situation, problem or project and trying to take charge.  Using The Message as our reference, in Paul’s first letter chapter 3, Paul instructed Timothy, “Don’t try to run things.”

 People who know me will understand that this is an area where I’ve had to learn to sit back and wait to be asked.  And the lesson has been learned the hard way.   Much of my gifting from the Lord is administration or leadership.  For me the easiest job you can give me in a project is to be the head.  Instinctively, I understand where people should be placed.  I’m able to let volunteers do as much or as little as they can. 

In addition, as a teenager, I learned that people like to do things when I ask them to do it.  There is nothing that I do that makes this happen.  There is no effort that I expend.  It is truly a gift from God.  For years, I thought everyone could and should be a leader because it seemed to be the most effortless position.  Later, I realized that God didn’t give everyone that gift and therefore, it was much harder for others.  I gained enormous respect for people who would take on a leadership position when they were much more comfortable being a server.

There are also many other mammoth deficits to the gift of leadership.  It is hard for me to sit back and see a project or program run badly.  Understand that in my perverted, youthful mind, a project run badly was probably one in which I was not in charge.  Over the years, I’ve learned that God uses many talents and giftings.  I grown to appreciate all aspects of the leadership of others.  Yet, I especially savor good leadership.

I found that I get some of my most delicious joy in helping to maximize the gifts and talents of others.  Coming along side and helping a leader become an even better leader is especially fulfilling for me.  I have never been offended by being assigned a position where I must work in the background.  In short, I come to understand the wisdom of Paul whose instruction to Timothy, a leader in the early church, was “Don’t try to run things.”

My son sat with the children’s book he had illustrated sitting on his lap.  “Mom,” he said, leaning forward to give his words emphasis, “all my life you told me that I could do anything I really wanted to do.  When I was 18, I didn’t believe you.  Now, I only wish you had told me that more often.”  After a successful career in the Air Force, he retired and took up an old passion, painting.  He was able to take lessons for a world-famous artist.  He is looking forward to painting full time.

When Henry Ford, the industrialist, was asked what the secret to his success was, he said, “When you start something, don’t quit until you finish it.”   No one doubts that this man and his automobile has had a tremendous impact on the world.

In Revelation, the Lord Jesus commended the Ephesian Church when he said,  “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. . . . You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (Rev. 2:2-3).  The Ephesian Church refused to quit.  They continued to press forward.

I have found that one of the most consistent things in Christy’s life is perseverance.  She has lived her life in a wheel chair.  I remember taking her on a two-day trip several years ago.  I’m not sure whether she was modest; but she wanted no help in transferring herself in the bathroom.  I watched as she creeped her way from her chair on to the adjacent seat.  Her movements weren’t by inches but centimeters.  However, she was successful. 

My respect for this young woman leapt as I saw the perseverance she used in navigating her way into a position to give herself success.  Over the years, I seen the same perseverance in Terri, Melvin, Carlos, and hundreds of other mentally challenged men and women.  They understand their disabilities and the limitations their bodies and minds present to them but so often ignore those limits.  Rather they choose to squirm their way centimeter by centimeter toward their goal. 

In the end their successes won’t make the record books.  Reaching the toilet seat each morning may not merit anyone an Olympic Gold Metal.  However, I’m confident that it wins a place in the heart of God.

Senator Barbara A. Mikulski’s online newsletter reported, “U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski today introduced Rosa’s Law, a bill that will eliminate the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from the federal law books. U.S. Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is the Republican sponsor of the bill.”

Good idea?  “Mental retardation” is the legal terminology used in all Federal and state laws.  

Personally, I’m not sure this is a good idea. Because “mental retardation” is the legal word for intellectual disabilities, this would mean a major overhaul of the laws. Would all states and cities then be required to change their verbage? If they aren’t required to change, then wouldn’t this only bring more confusion.

And would this move make “retard” illegal or hate speech? Unless it is illegal, would people stop the hateful speech? I don’t believe most people realize that they are being offensive by using this word.  What do you think?  Of course, our members are greatly offended by the offensive remarks of others but wouldn’t another word be used?

Perhaps the one thing will be good whether it passes or not. It could stimulate a conversation regarding how offensive the word “retard” is to our most vulnerable population.

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