Chuck and Emily Colson talk church and autism with Mike Huckabee.
Although I am not a fan of religion in general, I love the commitment to family and to love beyond oneself that faith often awakens in others. This segment from Mike Huckabee's show on Fox News demonstrates how Christian values can open up a deeper and more meaningful conversation about people with autism than what we usually see on TV.
The story of how Emily Colson and the people of her congregation figured out how to make her son Max not only feel included, but actually be an important part of their community isn't just about feeling good-- it's a great model. Start with the part that works well, then expand from there. Find what the autistic person can do and let him do it. Pay attention and create opportunities based on what he expresses interest in.
If you don't want to watch the whole video, skip to 5:16 and watch Max greeting people as they arrive for church. You will smile.
But I recommend you watch it all, including the second segment, which explores Max's extraordinary memory. They also discuss in some depth the system of communicating with pictures that has allowed Emily to help Max learn about life and conquer some of his fears. This is a very smart mother, and they wouldn't give her the chance to talk like in detail about a process that worked for her son on The View.
This is one example of how Christian people often express an openness to people who are different and an appreciation of love that cranky old atheists like me could learn from. The last time I mentioned Emily Colson was when her dad wrote a dumb column that suggested only Christians could love their children the way she does. That's stupid.
But it would be equally stupid to deny that this is one of the best talk show segments on autism I've ever seen, and that the faith of the people involved is the most important reason for that. The way Mr. Colson talks about entering Max's world, what he's learned from it, and how truly loving Max can be is beautiful and wise.
Please do not imply that only people who share your beliefs can perform some basic activity, like getting married or loving one's children.
Chuck Colson, evangelist and criminal, has a grandson with autism. Mr. Colson has written a column in which he explains how his daughter's love for him has inspired and humbled him. All that is very nice.
It’s a kind of love that the secular, materialistic worldview cannot account for, much less inspire. The best explanation it can give is a condescending, Darwinian explanation for altruism. In this account, a parent’s self-sacrificing care for the child isn’t altruistic at all. It is merely a way of assuring that our selfish genes are passed on.
So because I do not believe in God, according to Mr. Colson, I cannot understand my own parents' love for me. He shows how unselfish he is by suggesting that only people like him can be unselfish.
Chuck Colson is gross. People who believe only Christians are capable of real love are bigots.
Rosalind Picard discusses her work and her faith.
Rosalind Picard is a professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT. In this fascinating lecture, she discusses her work in affective computing and relates it both to autism and to her Christian faith. I learned a lot, but I was also moved by the respect with which she talks about autistic people
Affective computing is artificial emotional intelligence-- computing that simulates or analyzes human or animal emotions. She became interested in the topic when researching vision and finding that there were many aspects of visual process that were related to parts of the brain other than the cortex.
Scientists have succeeded in creating machines that successfully simulate some very simple emotional reactions, but Picard assures us we are nowhere near developing robots with emotions, no matter what the press says. Further, she says that being able to build a machine that will simulate emotions in the future will not mean that we fully understand emotions or people. She believes that complete understanding is possible, but only through God.
Her work has had very interesting applications for people with autism. In the video above, you can see her wearing bands on her wrists, These measure her level of emotional response. In the lecture, she shows a video of a girl with autism wearing the bands, who shows no change of facial expression or gesture but is experiencing intense emotional reactions.
Picard uses this to say something that many people with autism say-- we often seem to have no emotions because we are so overwhelmed by them. She talks about people who find our meltdowns frightening because they seem to come out of nowhere, then the response of people with autism, who cannot understand why others do not see our frustration.
Her team is also using cameras and software to analyze and identify the emotions of people speaking. The idea is that someone who cannot identify the emotions of others would be able to attach a tiny camera to his glasses or somewhere and then get hints about the responses of the people around them.
It is very unusual for me to hear a neurotypical person speak at length about people with autism without being hurt or insulted. Picard is very much the exception, talking about observing how people treat the intelligent people with autism she knows, acting like they are so stupid they don't even talk to them. She understands that we do communicate and that technology can play an important role in helping to bridge the gap between the world and us.
Picard's respect for all people derives in part from her faith, which she makes a good case for. Sort of. "Opt in like Twitter?" ???????
I know the video is long, but I think it's really worth your time.
Steve Arterburn's New Life Live had a pretty good discussion about whether or not a young woman was right to break up with her aspie boyfriend. Listen above.
Jay Serdula, a young Canadian who has used his swimming to bring attention to Aspergers, appeared recently on the show 100 Huntley Full Circle to discuss being a Christian on the autism spectrum.