For someone with autism to trust us, we must show that we want their well-being…before our own. Will we be their “good Samaritan”?
What it’s Like to Have Autism
“Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.’” (Luke 10:30-32)
I believe the vulnerability of the wounded man in this parable is like that of people with autism. Raw vulnerability can make others extremely uncomfortable, so they avoid it by distancing themselves from those with autism or insisting they “cowboy up” to their “norms.”
People with autism want to be accepted, so they try to mask their differences by disengaging. This way they won’t upset anyone by saying the wrong thing…or the right thing in the wrong way. All the while, they’re terrified that people will see through their masks and once again they won’t measure up.
The Good Samaritan
“‘But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?’” (Luke 10:33-36)
For someone with autism to trust us, we must:
- Go to them – see them
- Have compassion
- Bind up their wounds – pour on oil and wine
- Let them ride while we walk
- Give them shelter
- Care for them
- Pay the innkeeper
Go to Them
The good Samaritan went to the wounded man. People with autism are not able to come to us without trust, so the assignment of gaining their trust is ours.
How can we tell if we’ve gained their trust? By whether they talk freely to us about their emotions, problems, or differences. If not, we haven’t gained their trust yet.
Also, people with autism are terrified to be seen. I believe this terror, especially in adults, comes from rejection they’ve experienced when their differences have been seen, but not their hearts. We must see their hearts to initiate a connection. So, let’s put ourselves in their shoes. Let’s really feel what they feel.
What would it be like to be robbed, stripped, beaten, left on the side of the road, and seen by others as they walk by repulsed. Can we understand the fear? The wounds?
Many people with autism know true compassion when they see it. They also know when we’re wearing our own mask to make ourselves look good – to look like we have compassion.
If they believe we rejected them in the past, they will need to see consistent compassion from us over time before they trust us again. We’ll be patient during this time if we really see their hearts and have compassion.
Bind Up Their Wounds – Pour on Oil and Wine
I am grateful for the progress made in autism awareness. However, we haven’t come as far as I’d once thought. Some doctors still don’t know even the basics about autism. That was troubling when Hannah, who is now 20, was a toddler. But I was shocked when she saw a specialist last year who was just as uninformed.
Parents have told me distressing experiences their children with autism recently endured in medical, educational, and social settings. The older they are, the more wounds they have suffered at the hands of the uninformed or…partially informed.
But, thank God for good Samaritans!
Many people with autism have been blessed by those who learned about how autism affects them individually. This is important, because while there are similarities across the spectrum, autism affects each person differently.
An encounter with one of these precious family members, teachers, principals, doctors, or friends, washes the wounds with the “oil of gladness” (Psalm 45:7 ESV) and the wine representing Jesus blood (Luke 22:20 ESV). The wounds are bound. Healing begins…as trust begins.