By Maloney Medical
For parents of whatever faith, please do not take offense to the terms I may use below. The bottom line is that the group of beliefs that has been termed “New Age” has had a great deal of discussion about the spiritual aspects of autism, while similar discussions are just beginning in other faith communities.
What is important about spirituality and autism is my fundamental belief that these children are not broken. They are not victims of some divine genetic casting of dice, and while they may react very severely to adverse environmental attacks, they can rebound.
Beyond that, when dealing with autistic spectrum children, I see the canaries in the coal mine. For those unfamiliar with the metaphor, miners brought canaries down into the mines with them because the canaries were the first to react to poisonous fumes. Children with autistic spectrum are the first, in my experience, to react to many of life’s troubles, whether it be by withdrawal or by acting out.
It is in addressing that overall sensitivity, it becomes clear how difficult it is to affect an autism child positively when they are surrounded by negative stimuli. Take the perfect supplement regime with the perfect food, the perfect amount of sleep, the perfect teacher, the perfect friends (and the perfect parents) but wrap your child in a hairy, itchy wool sweater in the morning. Guess what? Bad day.
But the autistic’s sensitivity to stimuli that makes parents pull their hair out (or at least go grey) is the sensitivity that confirms so dramatically what is right in the world. We might eat overcooked pasta, but an autistic child refuses to treat his body as anything less than a temple. We might tolerate a toxic work environment, but an autistic child will withdraw into a world of his own rather than interact. Rather than judging his behaviors (and I’m sorry to use just the male pronoun for our girls out there) perhaps we should be judging the world into which he has been born.
Those parents fortunate enough to find a friendly, nurturing environment for their child have seen him take root and blossom, confirming it wasn’t just in his genes but also in his soil. He knows a good place, and he cannot tolerate much of the world we do.
In New Age circles, autistic children are discussed as Indigo children. They are also discussed more recently as Crystal children. The distinction is one of internal focus (Indigo withdraws, while Crystal expands) and interaction (Indigo is suspicious, while Crystal wants to blend in).
There are many discussions and chat groups about these types of children. Much of the information is useful regardless of your personal religious focus, and there are beginning to be discussions using different religious language if that is your preference.
In my practice with the withdrawing type Indigos, I have found focusing on adult conversation very useful. They also respond profoundly to homeopathics, more than “normal” children (there is no normal in medicine). Crystals are much more difficult to interact with at an adult level, but demonstrate clearly by their behavior what they are feeling. I have noted several Indigo/Crystal sibling pairings, usually in that order.
As a parent new to this terminology, you might ask: “so what?” Well, given that your child is likely to continue to have issues it is useful to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. What permanent changes have you made in your life as a result of your child and what permanent changes will you make? What answers have you given yourself about why this child and situation was placed in your life? Please don’t tell me this child is simply a burden given to you for past sins or past karma. These children are extremely trying, extremely tiring, and extremely wonderful. Whatever your answers to the questions about why they are with you, I will go out on a limb and give you a few compliments based on the parents I have seen:
Your autistic spectrum child chose you to care for them and protect them because of the spark within you. They saw a parent smarter than the average bear and more persistant than the average barracuda. As a parent, they are your focus and your heart, and they needed that. (Yes, I know this is true of all parents, but with autistic children you parents have a ferocious intensity).
What they needed from you from the beginning was a parent who would listen first to his or her heart and only secondly to experts and white coats (Don’t feel guilty about this, this is the path to fastest recovery). If the white coats are still making a fuss about this, find other white coats (as you have done before).
If your child is to grow, the most important thing you can do is fully accept the mantle of caregiver and to understand what a tremendous honor and challenge this is. It isn’t ok, once you accept it fully, to pretend you can hand over the treatment of your child to well meaning experts. Even in a full, in house treatment center your child needs your input. I don’t care how many letters they have after their name and neither does your child. You have more experience with your child and with this particular path to recovery (something as simple as: “no, the teddy bear needs to be with her all the time now” or “he needs three pencils by the bed” is not something you get a degree in).
You have the capacity. You have the brains (I have had biochemistry discussions with high school dropouts). You have the stamina. Your child chose you, and even if you think something you allowed to happen during her life may have affected her adversely, she is counting on you to be instrumental in helping make it right.