I was curled up on my cat-scratched yoga mat, rocking and crying. This is a frequent occurrence so I wasn’t alarmed, but the thought that God was near to me in my pain made me sob even harder — how could my perfect Creator see me like this?
I live with autism, and what had prompted this meltdown was a simple, harmless question:
“What are you learning in your time with God this week?”
For a few months, I’ve been meeting weekly with a spiritual counselor through online video sessions. She asks this question every week, and because of this, I felt as though I should have been better prepared with a verbal answer.
“I . . . I don’t know.”
Memories and images of my daily devotional times flooded my mind, but no words accompanied them. I wanted to be able to express the sweetness I felt that God was near even as the weight of the pandemic was setting in again, but my mind felt disconnected. Translating thoughts into words is what gives me the most trouble in counseling (and in general), and I could feel my speech slipping away from me.
As my counselor waited, I lost my ability to maintain eye contact, which is another challenge. I have to make a conscious effort to be polite and to show interest in that way — even through a screen — and it slipped. I thought I could feel her expectant and disappointed gaze as she gave up and moved on to the next question:
“What have you been reading in the Bible this week that has stood out to you?”
I tried to remember what I’d read. There had been a specific verse I was meditating on — I had written it down! Something in . . . Matthew. It had been the theme and aspiration of my week. However, the more I wanted the words to come, the further they felt from my lips.
I started “hearing the silence.” My mind swirled into a sea of dissonance as I heard my fan roar, my earphones hiss, the computer fan whirl, all while a violin in my mind started whizzing through a Hungarian folk tune. I call this “drawing a blank” because I struggle to communicate using words, though my mind during the session was anything but empty.
“I . . . I can’t seem to remember. My mind is buzzing. I’m sorry.” And then I dissolved into tears.
Apart from my family, my counselor was one of the first people — and the first fellow believer — I “unmasked” with. Even though there was already an established trust between us, I still felt uncertain and terrified that she might not believe me or that she would hold my disorder against me. I had always been taught in church to “always be prepared to give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15b NIV), and I was afraid I had just failed.
The shaming didn’t happen. Realizing I was done speaking for the day, my spiritual counselor took over, speaking words of encouragement from Psalm 139 and praying over me. Although I was unable to respond at the time, I realized these words had made an impact as I reflected back on them after the episode had passed:
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. (verse 1)
Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely. (verse 4)
What I understood: God understood what I was trying to convey.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. (verses 14-15)
What I understood: I was created with neurodiverse wiring for a purpose. God knew what I was going through and was not embarrassed by my behavior.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (verses 23-24)
What I understood: While this situation was out of my control, I am still accountable for the intent of my actions. I can work with my counselor to be able to answer this question next time — and if I can’t, God still sees and uses my efforts.
I write this as an encouragement to others who may feel they don’t have the “perfect” words to respond to someone in distress: we can hear your comforting words of truth even if they don’t appear to be helping in the moment. For me, an autistic meltdown is about releasing sensory triggers, but what happens in the moment of the meltdown is saved for later processing and reflection. There are others who may require complete silence, and that is okay as well.
Sometimes I feel so alienated from my body, and I question why I was created like this. I wish I could appreciate all the beauty in the world without my senses being overwhelmed, without melting down, and without getting exhausted. I take comfort that as our Creator, God knows all of the inner turmoils and challenges you and I face, no matter what our situations may be. Because of His grace and love, I can say with confidence: I am autistic, and I am fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving God.
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Amen! Thank you so much for sharing, Adora!
PS I love your name! So pretty!:)
Adora, thank you for sharing so vulnerably with us. Your story hit somewhere deep and I’m moved by your bravery (not just in sharing here, but in your everyday). I’m grateful to know you, friend, and see how you bless so many online — and grateful to learn from you in this space too.
I struggle with translating my thoughts into words and was triggered reading this, but feel a little lighter now knowing it’s ok and I am wonderfully made. Prayers and thank you for sharing.
Well put, Adora! We are so beautifully made by a loving God, and he knows our hearts. If we can just hold onto that truth, it will go so far in deepening our relationship with Him. Thank you for sharing your story. Blessings!
Catherine Scible says
Adora, thank you for making yourself vulnerable and explaining what you feel as a person with Autism. As a leader in my church Middle School ministry your sharing will help me reach out more effectively. I praise God that He has made you perfect and complete.
Your words are a strength and comfort to me. We all have various struggles. I’m one who bottles things up until I blow up. I’m improving, but I feel I should have moved past this as I’m in my 60’s. But what peace to know God understands.
connie ker says
I am a type 1 diabetic, and I am fearfully and wonderfully made too. We each are different and unique creations but we go forward holding onto His hands and holding onto each other. Thanks for being able to express yourself in your writing.
Ruth Mills says
Thank you for sharing! Years ago we had a beautiful autistic girl in our 3-4th grade Sunday school class. She paced the perimeter of the room the entire class. We would wonder if she was gaining anything being there but the promise of God’s Word not going out void, we trusted He was working. Occasionally we would be encouraged as she would randomly answer a question with “Jesus” & it was always well timed & the perfect tone of voice. Yes she & you & the rest of us are fearfully & wonderfully made by THE Master Creator!
I am writing with tears streaming. We have a 17 year old grandson who has autism. We love him. God created him wonderful and he is wonderfully made. Our hearts break for the struggles he faces daily. In spite of the challenges he face he is determined to not give up.
I struggle to connect my thoughts to speak words, especially with a group. I long to be able to share what God is teaching me and to pray aloud, but my brain just seems to shut down when I’m nervous. Thank you for this reminder from scripture that God knows my prayer before I speak a word. You are amazingly inspiring!
Heather Lobe Johnson says
Adora, I loved this piece. Psalm 139 is my favorite passage in the Bible, and your writing and observations about it illuminated it afresh for me. Thank you!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Thank you for sharing that you live with austim. I live with a learning disability. I don’t like crowds or change. Plus I would not realize I was in a world of my own or standing to close to someone when I should not be. I in my store on Tesco one day in Northern Ireland were I come from. They away back last year decided to put in a arrow system. To say to do with the Corona Various. You could only go one way down the store. You had to follow the arrows. Only person per trolley. I did know it was one person per trolley. So that day I went in as usual to do my weakly shopping. Got through the doors of Tesco. I saw these Arrows on the ground. I could not cope with them at all. I could feel myself wanting to cry. I remember one lady in the store saying to me by the way your going the wrong way. I couldn’t keep track of what way the Arrows were going because of my learning disability. I could not get to till quick enough to pay for what good I got. To get out of the store. Then all studden I felt God say. My child I love you. Just pay for what good you have leave the store. It will be ok. My Husband was in the car. He said as he knew something was not right with me. What wrong. I said that they put Arrows on the ground. Because of the Corona Various they are only trying to project people. Now only allowed to go down the store the way the arrows says. I could not follow them probably with my disability. I ended up going down an isle the wrong way. A lady came told me. Your going down the Isle the wrong way and not following the arrows. I wanted to cry and tell her you live in my world with my disability. You see hard it is to live with a disability and follow some rules. But I didn’t. My Husband said. You know what we not be going back into Tesco to do our shopping for our weekly groceries while they have the arrows. So we picked a shop without arrows. I felt God saying like you said my child you are Fearfully and Wonderful Made by me. Don’t let what that woman said about going down the wrong isle the wrong way get to you. You worry about you and what I say about you and how pressious you are to me. I will always help you in the difficult times with your disability when you find things hard to understand or cope with. To be able to cope with them in away that you not worry about others or what they think or say. Just know I am with you your God. Telling you what to do with the help of your Husband. That you are Loved at all times. Friend of mine who is saved sent me the the Father’s Love Letter you get it on YouTube. You just type it in on YouTube the words The Father’s Love Letter. It tells us just how much God loves us. Listing to that has also helped me a lot. Do if you get a chance listen to it. It is so true what it say about how much the Father loves us. I love what you wrote and for being so honest about your austim. I love you all incourage. I keep you all in prayer. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little
Sue Ewan says
God knows you heart, even if your mind and speech don’t always connect. God knows YOU! And that is beautiful to God.
Dear Adora, what a lovely introduction to a bit about who you are! And who God is! May you be gratefully accepted wherever you go. You are a gift.
Leutisha Stills says
Thank you, Adora, for sharing your story. I love your name, “Adora” and correct me if I am wrong, but your very name translates into how God feels about YOU. You are wonderfully and beautifully made, and you are “ADORED” by Him. God Bless you and thank you for sharing that when we don’t have to right words to say; God knows what we are saying.
Donna B says
Oh, sweet girl! Thank you so much for sharing your heart and your words with us, along with His truths.
As far as I know, I am not autistic, but suffer from some of the very things you shared, on a pretty regular basis…
I just kind of thought maybe there was something wrong with me and wondered why my brain didn’t seem to work like everyone else’s.
After reading your words, I do not feel so alone or ashamed.
Bless you for this writing as it resonated… I have lived with deafness all my life, and it is still an ongoing challenge for me, but God is/has been with me throughout the deafness journey. Thank you for this much needed post as we are NOT alone in this messed up world.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us pray that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. And we pray that we would be rooted and established in love and would grasp how wide and long and high and deep is Your love for us. May we know and express Your love to each other and to all those we encounter each day. Fill us afresh with Your Spirit that we would live to the full measure of what You have planned for us. In Jesus’ name, we pray. ( sample prayer from Eph 3:16-19 shared by our church pastor).
I have worked with children with disabilities and have read some books written by adults with autism. I will never forget reading what one person said, I can either listen to what you say, or look at you, but I can’t do both. We really backed away from asking kids with autism to look at us while we were speaking, especially if the discussion was deeper or anxiety producing. I know autism has an unending range of characteristics, so only offering this only as a reason to be a bit easier on yourself. I struggled with the decision to comment so hope my words are helpful.
Thank you Adora for sharing your story. While I don’t have autism, I have struggled with mental illness and, am too in weekly counseling. I struggle to remember things & find my mind wandering into all kinds of thoughts that make it difficult to say what I really want to say at the time. I realize I try to do my best and like you, know that God hears me and that brings me comfort. God bless you.
Adora, thank you so much for sharing. So beautifully said. You are a blessing and your words have blessed me. God bless you, friend. ❤️
Dear Adora, thank you for sharing such a personal experience so honestly. From what you have written, I think you are indeed a wonderful creation of a kind and loving Father. Your article touched my heart because I have a son who sometimes finds it hard to express himself due to lack of confidence and being a slow learner. With God’s help he has come a long way and is doing very well because he now takes part in plays and group discussions. Continue with your bible study and remember Jesus broke down with emotion in Gethsemane and so did David if you read many of his psalms. We are no surprise to God – He knows our every thought and the inner turmoil of our hearts. He made us. God bless you.
Adora, Since I am 83 years old I have lived a long time so I have found the truth in many things and one very important truth is God allowed some of His children to be born with Autism; however, they teach everybody what LOVE is all about as all of you show His love! God bless you dear one!
Forest Harrison says
Thank you so much Adorable for sharing your personal story. I feel we all struggle with translating our thoughts and fears. But isn’t it amazing that before a word is on our tongue our Lord knows it! We are fearfully and wonderfully made. To Our God Be The Glory!!!
Just beautifully expressed. You DO have a wonderful way with words. God bless you.
Darlene Haggerty says
Well written thanks for sharing this
Thank you for your honesty. I’m not autistic but today has not been an easy day to process, old wounds in the process of healing being ripped open again by a new person. Your words, your reminder of God’s words, Truth, have helped to bring comfort to a weary soul. Thank you.
Mary Gemmill says
So very glad to read this as there is precious little online describing the autistic experience as beautifully as you have here.
Thank you for being bold and courageous to share your truth.
I believe MANY will be blessed by your sharing here.
God BLESS you.
Mary in New Zealand
Thank you for posting your feelings and being vunerable in showing your thought life.
Your way of writing touched my heart& soul Deeply. Deep crying out too Deep.
Wish you allot of musical inspiration on the violin. Keep on Going!
I added a very short ted x talk for you that might give some extra insight about issues around autism.
And I also added a very beautifull song. Healing oil for the soul. Hopefully you will enjoy.
Problems with autism start often when a claim is made on the me.
Lack of imagination- empathy-problems with planning-setting boundaries-making choices for future are often because of a mayor crucial point of reference. Often because of lack of an I reference point. I as in Me. This I is an imaginary concept.
Neurotypical people can usually refer too this I When it comes too issues in the future or in the outer world.
Autistic people often lack this I reference point.
Because people in general reach each other with language. Everytime when a claim is made too this I an tension is sought in every corner of the brain and gets lost because it cannot find anything too refer too.
And then never reaches the end of the question or the assignment.
What can one do? Skipping (the word you) in language with autistic people.
Asking an person with autism; What does want? Instead of What do you want?
For example the question,, What do you want to eat”? Could be a problem. Panic often comes by this form of question.
Better suitable question would be: ,,What food matches this moment best”?
Without use of the I reference point and use of future perfect an question get easier to answer. 🙂
Link too the Ted Talk. https://youtu.be/cHC5ptidUas
Link too the song: https://youtu.be/9qIyGmYUaJI
Nancy Ruegg says
Thank you for the encouragement that even though we don’t have the “perfect” words to respond to someone in distress: they can hear our comforting words of truth. That situation occurred to me just last week. A friend called, suffering in emotional pain. As she shared, I prayed, “O God, give me the words to minister to her heart.” When our conversation ended, I didn’t feel my words had been adequate, although she assured me the call had been very helpful to her. I need to remember: the “perfect” words aren’t necessary to express care and comfort. Thank you, Adora, for your honesty today. You’ve definitely ministered care and comfort to all of your readers here!
Thank you so much for sharing your story. It was such an encouragement for me to read.
Susie Cantrell says
Thank You for sharing.
I hear your HeartWords and am enCouraged to keep trying to speak as well as, to remember your insights on Psalm 139.
Please; You remember that Yes, you, Adora are Adorably BeautyFull.
Have a JOYfull Day!
Tracy Bolwyn says
Thank you! This is so incredibly inspirational. I have a dear friend who is raising a granddaughter with autism, and this story would really encourage her.
Lynn Magnuson says
What a beautiful devotion Adora… Thank you for sharing… For you and every other person on earth, God sees us, hears us, understands us perfectly and will love you in all in all of the ways you need to be loved. I find that most people including myself can benefit from spending time in God’s presence. For me, it was really the only way I experienced what full acceptance and unconditional love is. It dissolved the self consciousness and insecurity inside of me in general and helped me to see myself through His eyes as opposed to my self conscience eyes. Each of us are here so that God can have a relationship with each of us. God made you to love you firstly and gave you strengths to share with others. Your devotional writing could be one of the purposes God has for you! You articulate yourself very clear and well! Try to love yourself as you are… each of us are beautiful in all different ways! That is the way He intended us to be…
Beth Williams says
Thank you for being so open & honest. I was born with two punctured ear drums. Couldn’t hear a thing & didn’t talk till I was almost 3. Had 3 surgeries to correct them-left one didn’t take either time. Took speech classes through HS. Had trouble finding the right work for me as I wanted to work in office, but not have to use phones. Got a hearing aid years later & that seemed to help. Then one day I realized I didn’t need it. Seems God healed the left ear. God created us uniquely. He knit us together warts & all. Psalm 139:13-14 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful.
Patricia Raybon says
I love your name, Adora! And your beautiful words here. Thank you so much for honestly helping and sharing.