By Ron Sandison
Stephen Mark Shore said, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” Every person who has autism is unique in his or her own ways. When I was eight years old I was diagnosed with autism. The educational specialists and doctors warned my parents that I would probably never attend college or have meaningful relationships.
I am employed full-time in the medical field and part-time as a professor of theology, happily married going on four years with an infant daughter born on March 20, Makayla Marie. Despite the experts predictions autism has not held me back but made me unique in five main ways.
- I am able to accomplish anything I put my mind to. Autism has given me an amazing ability to focus on my special interests and never quit. My grandma, Helen Olmsted, was accomplished author of three published books and wrote and directed over a hundred murder mystery plays.
I also desired to be a published author and see my book in Barnes & Noble. I wrote a three hundred page book on theology and my book proposal was rejected by over 20 publishers. I had invested over 1,500 hours writing the book. Instead of giving up my dream I wrote a second book A Parent’s Guide to Autism and on April 5, Charisma House published it. The only difference between a successful person and a failure is a successful person rises one more time than he or she falls.
- I sound like a Transformer. Autism caused my speech to be delayed and my brother Chuck at seven years old bragged to his friends, “My brother sounds weird; he speaks Norwegian!” When I was a sophomore in high school, I was chatting on the phone with Kelly who asked me, “Why does your voice lack inflections? You sound like a Transformer.” I had a crush on her and felt embarrassed by her question. In interviewing others with autism in the process of writing my book I discovered I was not the only Transformer on the planet. We on the spectrum are more than meets the eye.
- I love to follow routines and never missed a schedule day of work. At the beginning of 2010 NFL season I purchased two tickets for Brett Favre’s final game at Ford Field in Detroit. Brett’s consecutive start streak had reached 309 games. On Monday night, December 13, 2010, Brett’s streak ended due to a sprained right SC joint injury to his right shoulder. I like to joke, “If Brett Favre had autism he would’ve never allowed any shoulder injury to break his streak.”
The day after Christmas, 2014, I woke up an hour before my shift and felt horrible from bronchitis. I did not want to break my iron streak of never missing a day of work.
My concrete thinking reasoned, “If a nurse sends me home for being contagious, my streak will continue because I showed up for work.” I put on my gray scrubs outfit and stumbled to my Ion. I felt dazed as I drove the 5 miles to work. My head was spinning faster than the roundup-ride at the State Fair.
When I entered the conference room, I said to the charge nurse, “I feel like I am about to pass out; please take my temperature.” After placing the thermometer in my ear, she exclaimed, “Your temp is 103. I’ll call the supervisor and tell him that you need to go home immediately.” My consecutive streak continued.
- I have never had a credit card. Autism causes me to have obsessive compulsive behavior for this reason I have never dared own a credit card. When I order an item online I have my wife use her card. About 25% of adults with Asperger’s have clinical signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Thus a credit card could have devastating financial results for them.
- I have a savant ability for memory. Only about ten percent of autistics belong in the savant category though most savants are autistic. I can quote word perfect over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes. While in college this gift enabled me to mentor and intern under internationally known TV evangelist Dr. Jack Van Impe.
When you meet someone who has autism remember that each one of us has his or her own unique gifts. As Temple Grandin states, “I am different but not less.”
Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of America. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom published by Charisma House. He has memorized over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes.
Ron has published articles in Autism Speaks, Autism Society of America, Autism File Magazine, Autism Parenting Magazine, Not Alone, the Mighty, the Detroit News, the Oakland Press, and many more. He frequently guest speaks at colleges, conferences, autism centers, and churches. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with a baby daughter, Makayla Marie born on March 20, 2016. You can contact Ron at his website www.spectruminclusion.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org