How Josiah a non-speaking autistic child conveys spiritual truths

Tahni Cullen and Josiah


“Faith is believing for kites to fly when there’s no wind in sight,” Josiah Cullen

By Ron Sandison

 Tahni Cullen, a minister and bestselling author of Josiah’s Fire, declares, “God is a good gift giver.” During the darkest days of autism her family’s faith was shaken. Tahni refused to lose hope standing firm in her conviction, “Always presume intelligence. Just because Josiah can’t speak doesn’t mean he can’t think.”

On October 4, 2005, Josiah was born, his development was typical except for being a late walker. They choose the name Josiah which means “fire of the Lord.” At around twenty-two months Josiah began to rapidly regress, losing eye contact, speech, and play skills leading to his autism diagnosis at age two. Tahni and her husband were devastated, as a minister, she questioned God, “Where was hope when there is no hope?”

Josiah was non-verbal and was prone to severe meltdowns. During autism meltdowns at the mall peoples’ stairs caused Tahni to feel like a prisoner of war. Tahni was determined to help Josiah reach his full potential. She shares, “I would speak to Josiah according to his age, talk as if he were listening to me, even though I didn’t know if he could understand me.”

Little steps were the key to Josiah’s learning. Tahni began small, taking Josiah to McDonald’s, and ordering a hamburger or chicken nuggets to go. After he was comfortable eating in McDonald’s, she introduced him to the Play-Place toy interactive with children his age.

Tahni anticipated Josiah’s meltdowns by watching for the warning signs. She helped him become calm by speaking gentle words over Josiah,  taking him to a safe place, free from sensory stimulation so he could regulate his emotions.   

Despite Tahni and her husband’s effort by age five Josiah was still non-speaking. She was concerned Josiah  would be in the forty percent of those on the autism spectrum who never learn to speak. For several months Tahni was teaching Josiah to spell by pointing to letters on paper. She saw little progress.

Tahni read Biblical passages to Josiah to teach him concepts.  She asked him to pick the right word from three choices on paper that represented the idea he was learning and then type the word on his IPad.    

On a September night, one month before his seventh birthday,  Tahni received her miracle. While reading to Josiah from his children’s Bible the narrative of Jesus healing the blind man, she waited for him to spell the word “heal” on the alphabetical buttons on his IPad. To her amazement he typed, “God is a good gift giver.” His first independent sentence. Before this Josiah had only communicated by pictures on paper and one-word spellings.

Josiah’s sentence created a renewed faith and was a sources of life for Tahni and her husband. Slowly, Josiah continued to communicate spiritual truth through his IPad messages. He write quotes, heavenly encounters with angels, and biblical poetry that captured his parents’ hearts and helped them to grow in their faith. As Tahni testifies, “Joy and hope sprang up from our dry wells. Dreams re-emerged. As we witnessed daily Josiah’s confidence to communicate through his IPad; faith became fun again, charging us with expectancy.”    

Josiah who had difficulty connecting with people on earth now was communicating with God and sharing spiritual insight. As Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Matthew 11:25).   

Joisah and his family

Tahni shares her son’s spiritual quotes on Josiah’s Fire Facebook Fan Page which has over 9,400 followers. Some beautiful quotes from Josiah:

“I’m trying to hide myself in God’s loving tower, not in that space between winning and losing.”

“Faith is believing for kites to fly when there’s no wind in sight.”

“Angels make tears into minutes of amen.”

Josiah’s spiritual journey and encounters with angels has enabled him to communicate his life’s experiences and sensory issues, he typed, “I am not mute in my mind, but that is the problem with autism. You get worked into hasty wailing because you can’t speak in an instant. You want to throw a blaring tantrum so you can be heard like a real person.”

At eleven years old, Josiah through his spiritual encounters is communicating God’s love and hope for hurting people.  You can read the rest of Josiah’s story in Tahni Cullen’s book Josiah’s Fire: Autism Stole his Words, God gave him a Voice. Amazon Link to her book:     


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. Ron has memorized over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes.

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 or email him at

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