Before being subject to extensive intervention and brainwashing about autism, we parented the way our parents parented us. It is natural to repeat the familiar. In reality, we apprentice our kids in their prayer life, faith disciplines, hygiene habits, driving practices, and eating preferences. We lead by example whether intentionally or by accident. My kids haven't had any sugar this week, because I do their shopping and I am abstaining from the unholy trinity of sugar, alcohol, and dairy this month. Are they upset? I don't think they've even noticed. How easily they adapt from our formerly frequent trips to Golden Spoon and Panera. My example (in this case, positive) becomes their familiar.
After his recent baptism, Reid was introduced with the New Member class at church. This involved walking up onto the dais with a group and being prayed for by two pastors. Reid loves to be in the limelight but was also appropriately nervous to do this "correctly." Anticipating the cue and blushing brightly, he stood behind the organ as the pastor made the invitation. Then in the bat of an eye, he scampered across the distance of the chancel to reach the other pastor who seemed more available (accurately reading his body language). Once there, they stood arm in arm in poignant solidarity. Since I was intentionally not assisting and letting Reid take this step independently, I was grateful for that pastor's presence, finesse and intuition. He served as a literal and figurative anchor to which Reid could cling.
Now physically linked Reid, the senior pastor took the mic to pray aloud. He invited the congregation to raise a hand of blessing toward these new members. Well, bear in mind, Reid is in a weekly pattern for the last 3 years of listening intently and studying this man's preaching and leading style. He tracks him in the church bulletin, noticing who is responsible for the "Worship Focus," "Life Together," and "Prayer of Confession." As a result, those few moments of "being" the Senior Pastor thrilled Reid. He did what Mike did, raised a hand and mouthed the words along with him in a prayer welcoming new members. So much for Theory of Mind or pronoun comprehension or whatever it is that the other new members had which informed them to just bow their collective heads, keep their hands at their sides and receive the blessing! No harm done, Reid is a pastor wannabe! He is blessed. AND he blesses other people ALL the time.
Another example of powerful role modeling is Peter Reynolds. As founder of Fable Vision, he has produced major media including all many of our favorite (albeit banned) pbskids shows as well as the some clever short films. A big kid himself, he travels to inspire schoolchildren with his true love of writing. He models storytelling, thinking creatively, and exhorts teachers to do the same-not to assign writing but to write and let the kids copy them. He does what he wants kids to do!
Even more on topic, check out this group in Toronto. Keys to the Studio, has paired professional musicians with students on the autism spectrum to experience and create music together. The podcast on their site is worth listening to, to hear their inspiration and mission to focus on commonalities, growth and doing one's personal best. In essence, they have created functional apprenticeships for young people who want to pursue music professionally. Gotta love it!
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. James 1:21-23
You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 11:18-20
Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favor both with the LORD and with men. 1 Samuel 2:25-27
photo credit: www.davidblackonline.com, www.farm4flickr.com