Pondering autism

As I think I’ve posted before, my daughter has autism.

There are many things about this which are difficult, but one question which haunts me is, will there be autism in the resurrection?

This might seem, on the surface, like a stupid question.  There will be no illness or disability in the resurrection, will there?  We will be immortal, imperishable, perfect as we were originally intended to be.

But really, this question is about me wrestling with the nature of autism as a disability.  Some people claim that autism isn’t a disability, it’s just a difference; it means your brain works differently, and might just give you strengths as well as weaknesses, when compared with a “normal” person.

More than that, when something has been such a fundamental part of who you are since before you were born, when it is so deeply embedded in your identity that you can’t imagine it not being part of you, what does that suggest for you being somehow yourself, in the resurrection?  Would that be true in any meaningful way if the autism were somehow not there?

I don’t pretend to know more than in part.  But this is what I can see now, as a neurotypical mother of an autistic daughter, who tries to look at these things through the lens of faith.

Autism is a disability.  That the brain has developed with less interconnectivity than that of a non-autistic person, and that this results in impairments – typically sensory, language and social – is scientific fact.  That these impairments make things which other people take for granted, much more difficult to do or achieve, is fact.  I hope my daughter will finish school, go on to further study, find work that she loves and a happy family life in a structure that she chooses.  But if she does, it won’t be because she’s not disabled.  It will be because her many strengths have helped her to do her best despite that disability.

So that suggests to me that in the resurrection, autism might be – if not totally erased – like the rest of our bodies, transformed.  For an autistic person to be him- or herself in the resurrection, some of who they have been, developmentally, and in terms of personality, must remain in continuity with their mortal self.  But the limitations, the lack of ability, the impairment; I hope that will be erased like the lifting of a veil.  So that those who have been confused and overwhelmed and who have struggled, might find that in the new creation, they are able to relate to the world around them with confidence and understanding, while still holding on to whatever strengths that their life has formed in them.

April is autism awareness month.  Conversations about autism are everywhere; but I haven’t seen anyone else ask this particular question.  What do you think?

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