I’m Thankful for These Five Mentors Who Inspired Me to Become the Person I am Today

Ron Sandison with Jack Van Impe

Entering the holiday season, I realized how thankful I am for the five mentors God has brought into my life and ministry. These men empowered me to become the man I am today. I hope to mentor and inspire other young adults on the autism spectrum to accomplish their dreams.

By Ron Sandison

As I reflect on Thanksgiving and all God’s blessings and provision, I have five mentors for whom I am very thankful for their friendship and lives. These mentors inspired me to use God’s gifts and stay productive. They did not place labels on me based on my autism diagnosis but saw my passion and potential. My five mentors some of whom have gone to be with the Lord were still productive in their late eighties and beyond. I learned from each of them valuable lessons on life and as Psalm 92:14 says “still bear fruit in old age.” I will share with you the lesson these Men of God have taught me and how I am a better father, advocate, and minister because of them.

My Dad

For many people with autism the mom is the main influencer, quitting a career to take care of her child. I was blessed to have a tag team. My mom was a full time “Ron teacher” while my dad provided for our family by working 35-years as an architect for General Motors. I learned from my father the importance of a strong work ethic and taking an interests in your child’s passions.

Dad’s motto was:

If a man will not work, he shall not eat.

Dad with Makayla

Dad paid me ten dollars a week to mow the lawn with a push lawnmower at age twelve and when I was fourteen he encouraged me to get a job as busboy at Bill Knapp’s. Early employment helped me learn life skills like how to budget and save money, deal with angry customers, make friends with coworkers, and to develop a healthy self-esteem. Many qualities people with autism struggle with.

Dad took an interests in my passions and dreams. When I felt called to attend Oral Roberts University to be a minister, my dad traveled 950 miles to Tulsa, OK with me for college weekend and helped me meet the theology faculty and students and explore the campus. This made the transition from high school to college more smooth and by attending a college far from home, I gained independence and self-confidence.

On December 13th, 2010, dad drove with me in a Michigan blizzard to see my favorite football player Brett Favre play in a Monday Night game. The game was held in Detroit because the Viking’s stadium the Metrodome roof collapsed. After driving four-hours by the time we arrived at Ford Field, the tickets were gone; this game marked the end of Brett Favre’s NFL-record streak of 297 consecutive starts. My dad streak of faithfulness and love continued. Now at 87 my dad still tag teams with my mom by caring for my 5-year-old daughter, Makayla 40-hours a week and he continues to be active by doing 10 pushups each day.

Dr. Laurence A. Becker

Dr. Laurence A. Becker is the producer of the documentary film Fierce, Love & Art which is narrated by Temple Grandin and features nine young adult artists with autism stories including mine. I am inspired by Dr. Laurence’s dedication for helping artists with disabilities by sharing their stories and parents’ love and determination. At age 83, Dr. Becker drove 1,300 miles for an autism
conferences featuring his film. When producing Fierce, Love & Art, he drove from Austin, TX to Michigan to share my family’s journey with autism.

Two valuable life lessons I gleamed from Dr. Laurence is the power of stories and a passion for reading and gaining knowledge.

Dr. Laurence Becker with me.

Dr. Becker is a fountain of wisdom on education, art, nutrition, and autism, and his living room is a studio filled with original artwork by savants and prodigies. He has a story for each piece of art and shares the lessons he learned from the artist. After hearing Dr. Becker speak you feel like you know the artist and their family. In May 2019, I had the pleasure to stay with Dr. Laurence and his wife Rosanne and to attended a film festival and speak on autism in Austin. When I am in my eighties, I hope to have this same passion and energy to travel the country and inspire others.

Dr. Jack Van Impe

The first week of January, 2020, Dr. Jack Van Impe filmed the final episode of his Show Jack Van Impe Presents. Two weeks later he went home to the Lord at age 88.

While in college, I mentored and intern under Dr. Jack Van Impe. Dr. Van Impe was the only minister I met who could quote over 15,000 Scriptures like me and while I was in high school, he took time to teach me to memorize the Bible. He taught me to memorize by subject and to put the Scripture verses on 3×5″ cards and to review the new verse cards each week and the older verse cards monthly.

I wrote an article for the Art of Autism about Dr. Van Impe.

Some valuable lessons I learned from Dr. Jack Van Impe is God’s faithfulness and a love for the Scriptures.

Jack Van Impe with Me
Dr. Jack Van Impe with me

While interning, Dr. Jack Van Impe exclaimed, “Look around this studio and building, this is all a result of God’s faithfulness and goodness. If you put Christ first in your life, your ministry and marriage will prosper.” Dr. Van Imp shared with me stories of the struggles he and his wife Rexella experienced as a traveling ministry team. During his 70 years of ministry, Dr. Van Impe invested over 40,000 hours memorizing Scriptures, traveled to over 50 countries, spoke live to over 10 million people, and the New Times displayed a two page article for his obituary. Dr. Van Impe has inspired me to continue to memorize the Scriptures and remain faithful to God’s call for ministry.

Dr. Darold Treffert

Dr. Darold Treffert was an internationally renowned psychiatrist and research director who specialized in the epidemiology of autism spectrum disorders and savant syndrome and he wrote the foreword for my third book Views from the Spectrum: A Window into Life and Faith with Your Neurodivergent Child.

On December 14th, 2020, Dr. Treffert went home to the Lord at age 87 after watching his home team Packers beat the Lions. Dr. Darold was a pioneer in the field of autism and trained under Dr. Leo Kanner who coined the term early infantile autism. Dr. Treffert inspired me with his concept “Island of Intactness” that individuals with disabilities and autism have an area that is still “intact and not broken” and professionals and parents need to focus on the strengths not the disabilities.

For most of my life autism made me feel broken and like an endangered species—the only one of my kind. Through Dr. Treffert’s writings and research I now understand the unique way my brain processes information and come to appreciate my amazing memory ability and talent for art.

I am close friends with his daughter Jill Treffert who is a Christian and lives in Oakland Country and she comes to hear me preach. On August 20th, 2021, I had the pleasure to speak at the Treffert Center in Fond du Lac, WI. As a mental healthcare professional, I’ve learned from Dr. Treffert to have a gentle spirit and bedside manners by listening to the patient and to keep lifelong curiosity for how the mind operates.

Les Stobbe

In 2015, Les Stobbe an established literary agent with over 60 years of experience at age 85 took a chance on me an unknown author without a social media platform. He cheered me on in writing, encouraged my faith in Christ, coached me, and refined my book proposal and manuscript. Les negotiated with the acquisition editor from Charisma House and I received a contract for my first book A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom. Six years later, I now have three nationally published books, a strong social media following, and speak at over 70 events year on autism including 20 plus education conferences.

Two valuable lessons I gleamed from Les are look for God moments and don’t accept no for an answer.

Les Stobbe with Ron Sanidson
Les Stobbe with me

This past September at age 90, Les published his autobiography God Moments in My Publishing Life: The Making of a Writer and Publisher. Working with Les I experienced numerous God moments. While attending Write to Publish in 2105, after having lunch with Les, I meet Kelli an author and blogger with two sons with autism. She suggested I interview famous ministers who have a child with autism. Following Kelli’s advice, I connected with Pastor Rod and Joni Parsley and spoke at World Harvest Church and I interviewed over 50 experts in the autism community. This random God moment was the beginning of my platform in the autism community.

Les encouraged me to never accept no as an answer. My first proposal was rejected by fifteen publishers. Instead of giving up, I worked with Les and develop a new manuscript for a book on autism. Six months later, we had a contract from Charisma House. As Charles Spurgeon preached, “By perseverance the snail reached the ark.”

Entering the holiday season, I realized how thankful I am for the five mentors God has brought into my life and ministry. These men empowered me to become the man I am today. I hope to mentor and inspire other young adults on the autism spectrum to accomplish their dreams.

Ron Sandison

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 and Thought, Choice, Action. He has memorized over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes. Ron’s third book Views from the Spectrum was released in May.

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 sandison456@hotmail.com.

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