May 2011


Special Heart

The Autistic Child and Discipline

Although I have had two children with special needs, and although one of them had some autistic tendencies, I have never raised a child diagnosed with autism.  But I have observed from afar what the parents of such a child are faced with, and it is often a daunting task to raise, nurture, and seek to have this child’s gifts be appreciated by the rest of society.

And to make matters even more difficult, it’s hard to discern how to correct, discipline, and establish boundaries for the autistic child, knowing that he or she is “wired” a little differently from most kids.  What is fair?  What is effective?  Is there a different standard for children who are on the autism spectrum?

There are many sides to these questions.  Let me offer first the side of compassion:  When I was very, very ill with an autoimmune condition several years ago, there were symptoms that were amazingly similar to those experienced by many autistic children–severe food sensitivities and allergies, environmental sensitivities, intolerance of man-made fabrics, of florescent lights, and a hyper response to strong smells and loud sounds.  As a result, I can somewhat relate to and definitely sympathize with the child who endures these disturbing sensations.  I could hardly handle it as an adult.  I really do feel for any child who struggles in this way.

At the peak of my illness, God directed me to a kind doctor who said, “You are very fragile, like a piece of fine china or crystal. We need to treat you with this in mind.” How relieved I felt that he saw me in this way rather than as a person with imaginary problems! Thankfully, since then, my hyper-responses have calmed.

Looking back at my experience, my doctor’s words can be advice to parents of the autistic child:  to treat him or her as a piece of fine china.  Don’t be afraid to parent and guide with boundaries, accountability, and the kind of structure that all kids need.  But do it all with an extra dose of care and gentleness.

So that is one side.  The other side is two-fold and has to do with discipline.  First, God’s standards, commands, promises, and blessings apply to all children. For example, God says,

“Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Honor your father and your mother (which is the first commandment with a promise) so that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.”  Ephesians 6:1 NASB

Notice that God’s intention for having standards for children is so that “it may be well” with them. They may even live longer, according to this verse!  So God’s commands do apply to the autistic child, although getting to the goal of obedience and a sense of “otherness” will without a doubt be a longer and harder road than for the more typical child.

The other factor in disciplining the child on “the spectrum” is that although she may not know intuitively how people around her are responding to her behavior, she can be taught and can learn through rules, or you might call them “guidelines.”

Temple Grandin, in her book, Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, emphasizes that although as an autistic child, she had trouble understanding appropriate social behavior, she did benefit from consistent expectations and consequences.

When I was a young child, everything pretty much got me equally upset.  My thinking patterns were more rigid, more black and white than shades of gray.  I was fortunate that  our home life was structured and Mother and the nanny were consistent in their expectations of me and the consequences they attached to my behaviors.  That sameness was calming to some degree, it allowed me to experience a sense of order and control.

Throughout the book, Temple describes that she had to learn things, particularly things that were social in nature, that other kids might know intuitively.  However, she did learn, as she describes it, like putting data on a hard drive on a computer.  But it did take time.

Sean Barron, Temple’s coauthor who, like Temple, demonstrated “classic autism” at a very early age, writes this about manners and how he had to learn about being others-aware:

The rule of displaying good manners extends beyond please and thank you.  It’s not enough to make good eye contact and be sure the shirt is tucked in. Good manners also incorporate  inclusive conversation. 

Realize that Sean was quite language delayed when he was young, so any conversation was hard for him!  But he eventually learned  to say things like “Well, I’ve talked enough about myself.  I’d like to learn more about you.”

All of this progress was slow in coming, but the end result was that Temple and Sean are now able to bless others with the gifts they possess, and able to enjoy the satisfaction of being a very positive contribution to the society in which they live.

I’ve noticed that parents of kids with autism are often able to see beyond their “condition” to the giftedness that is within them.  A combination of compassion and discipline, will help to draw out that treasure that is assuredly there for all to see and experience.  I encourage you to not give up.  Your child has so much to offer, and your labor of love will eventually be a blessing to you, to your child, and to the many others who benefit from getting to know him!

Bev Linder

Comments or questions?  I’d love to hear from you!

Bev@special-heart.com

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Memorial Day is the last day of The Special Gathering’s annual camping experience called Camp Agape. Each year we take more than 200 people to a camp ground for four-days of fun and fellowship.  We return Memorial Day and those of us who have served as staff are totally and completely exhausted.  Our members are mentally challenged and most of them have a secondary physical disability.  As uplifting as this adventure into our cloistered sub-culture may be, it is also filled with mental stress and bodily exertion.

As a result for the last 24 years, Memorial Day has been a day observed but not a day of remembering.  Nevertheless, as the years of war have grown into almost a decade, I am more deeply aware of what these young men and women have given to us.  My heart is moved remembering the sacrifice of our youngest and best adults.

I am blessed to be old enough to remember the Korean War and the resolves made after World War II.  Again and again, we were told by our elders, “We must never again let tyranny and oppression threaten the world with destruction.”  It is the result of the horrible lessons learned during war that we weep at the horrors of battle but continue to send our young adults marching into the face of the unknown.

We pray for peace in the world.  However, we remember the history of the world.  Therefore, we are eternally grateful for the freedom we enjoy.  I always thank God when I read the slogan of a bumper sticker of a rusty and battered truck, “Freedom is not free.”

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/?p=625#ixzz1NMobbFU3

Jesus is the Rock

Central Theme:  Jesus is the foundation and stable person in my life.

Introduction–Tell about doing a hard project.  Tell about how it had to have a firm foundation.  Tell some of the steps that you used at the beginning of the project.  This was the most important things about the project. Have a member read Ephesians 2:20.

I.     Jesus spoke to Peter and told him that on a foundation of rocks he would build his church.

A. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the chief cornerstone

B. Jesus said that Peter would be part of the foundation stones.

C. It is important that the church have a good start.

II.     As part of the church, SPG is to have a good foundation.

A. Special Gathering does not own any buildings.

B. But our foundation is built on some rocks.

1.  We have rocks of people, like Peter and Jesus.

2.  We have elders who are our teachers.

3.  We have deacons that we elect from our members.

III.     God wants our lives to be built on a good rock.

A. Jesus can help us to build good lives.

B. We can be people who trust God.

C. Jesus will be sure that our lives don‘t crumble every thing have something to do with Him .

Conclusion  Jesus is the best foundation for our lives.

Loving As God Loves Me

by Michelle Demeree

Do you know your inner self?

Do you love YOU as Jesus loves YOU?

To love as Jesus loves, I must find faith

I must find faith to pray to God.

I  must work on being the person God wants me to be.

Try to know your feelings.

Then let’s go with God and trust his love for us.

Then we can love ourselves as God love us.

Shelly Demeree is a member of The Special Gathering of Melbourne.  She loves to express herself in writing. Her poetry and writing has appears in several publications.

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/2011/05/loving-as-god-loves-me.html#ixzz1NMq4aKzH

By 7:30am this morning, I will be heading to First United Methodist Church to set up for luggage pickup for Camp Agape.  Because we also provide transportation to our camp, there is the additional struggle with luggage.  By 11:30 we will be at camp and herding folks into the chapel area so that we can set up the cabins with luggage on their beds and pillows in place.

Most of you know and understand the stress of camp.  You also know the need for prayer.  Therefore, my main concern is prayer for the health and safety of our members and volunteers.  Please pray for us.


Several times a year, the Volusia County locals are treated to lots of tourist traffic because of the Daytona speedway.  For more than five years, my full-time position with Special Gathering, a ministry within the intellectually disabled community, was in Volusia County.  I worked primarily in Daytona and DeLand.  These are racing cities.  NASCAR rules the city of Daytona because of the income it provides.

Every resident of Daytona understands what it means to drive a marathon.  Driving 500 miles at top speeds of 150 to 170 miles per hour is not a sprint.  It’s a gut-grueling marathon.  Paul tells us that our lives in Christ are to be viewed as a marathon, rather than a sprint.

I was reminded last week of how our life-long marathons should be run.  During the time that my husband’s life was being gently pulled from us, our family gathered around the table waiting.  Conversations about life and lives wove in and out.  Carefully threading the warp and weft of dialogue, we found our family’s lives being woven into the lives of others.
One life was South Carolina’s former Lt. Governor Andre Bauer.  Cheryl, my husband’s sister sat with us and started talking about our wedding.  Slightly changing the subject, she asked, “What happened to Jill Westbury?  She was really kind to me in your wedding.  I always wondered what happened to her.”
The Westbury family had been our next-door neighbors most of my childhood.  Jill and I were playmates until high school.  When Jill married, she began using her first name, Sandrea.  She became Sandrea Bauer.  Relating what I thought was an interesting twist, I shared, “She and her husband moved to Columbia.  And Jill’s son was best friends and college roommates with my neice’s huband.”
“Her son’s name was Andre; and,of course, he became lieutenant governor of South Carolina,”  I topped my story with what I thought was an interesting tidbit.
My husband’s family had lived in Columbia for many years; and I knew that Cheryl would be interested in this hometown trivia.  My sister-in-law, Cheryl, laughed.  “Oh, the story doesn’t stop there,” she chimed into the discussion.  ”Remember the teenager who mowed my mother’s lawn?”  she asked.
Sure, I remembered.  An extremely handsome young man had started mowing Mrs. Howard’s yard when he was a young teenager.  She was a widow by then and this teen was very kind to her.  She was disabled and found it hard to walk.  The teenager began running her errands also.  He did all her grocery shopping.  By the time he was in college, the teen was driving a new sports car; but he continued to pop into her house to make sure that she was all right.  Because none of the family lived in Columbia, we were extremely grateful but equally leery of this college student who seemed to have more than a passing interest in Mrs. Howard.
Was he taking her money?  The daughters often checked her banking accounts to insure that nothing was wrong.  Nope.  The teen was paid for the lawn but not the errands he ran two or three times a week.  He seemed to be genuinely interested in her well-being.  For more than ten years, he took a caring. active interest in my mother-in-law.
Cheryl smiled with satisfaction, pressing both hands against her upper legs to give her statement more emphasis, she reported, “That young man was Andre Bauer.  We found out that he did similar errands for all the elderly folks in the neighborhood.  By the time, he was in college, he was doing their grocery shopping, without charge.
“Later, as lieutenant governor, Andre’s signature issue was helping the elderly and disabled in the state of South Carolina,” she said.  “He took what he learned from the neighbors he served as a teenager and used it to benefit all of the state.”
His is a true Good Samaritan story.  This is the kind of marathon life that Christ expects us to live.  Andre Bauer has lived his life helping and nurturing others–not for political gain; but as a man who genuinely cares about his neighbors who need his help.  Of course, he has made mistakes and verbal blunders but flat tires are expected in a marathon.
Sitting that night with family and friends, everything became a bit of a blur for me. Yet, the marathon race of Andre Bauer’s life is notblurred at all.  This is a man who understands the meaning of the marathon.

Regarding special needs ministry, there must be the marathon mentality.  Our lives can no longer be short-term mission trips but long-term commitment to the communities we serve.  After telling the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asked the religious leaders, “Who was the good neighbor?”  We must answer the woman or man who helped those in need.  The one who ran life’s marathon while stopping to reach out and touch those in need.

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/2011/05/the-marathon-of-life.html#ixzz1NAbp6ddW

After the devastation in Joplin,  Missouri, another tornado has ripped through Oklahoma.  It is important that we remember the victims of these horrific storms.  While it has not been a feature of the news, there must be people who are mentally disabled who are misplaced and disoriented.  Here is my prayer taken from various verses in Romans 12.

Lord, we bless those who are hurting and wounded from the storms in their lives.  I pray especially for the weakest among us.  I ask that you will bring the best out of all the people who have been adversely affected by this terrible event.  We place before You as an offering the men, women and children who are in pain and despair.

Lord, bring from this tragedy Your peace that is not effected by circumstances, Your stamina that does not burn out, Your compassion that does not overlook even the smallest details. 

Help each one to discover beauty in everyone they meet,  to find release in  laughter when the stress and hard work is more than they can bare.  Give them friends who will share tears with them when they’re down.

Most of all, I pray, that each person will find the joy of a true friendship with You, and give themselves to You as an offering.  Lord, let it be that in the middle of their heartache, each person will be able to fix their attention on You and Your great love.  In Jesus name, we pray.  Amen.

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