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Autism is a complex disorder. There is controversy over its causes and symptoms - even how to define it. But one thing has been clear since the term first came into use in 1911. People on the spectrum view the world in a unique way.
That leads to the question we are exploring: what is the experience of the Divine for the autistic mind?
Medically, autism is defined as "a spectrum of neuro-psychiatric disorders characterized by deficits in social interaction and communication, and unusual and repetitive behavior. Some, but not all, people with autism are non-verbal."
A neuropsychiatric disorder. But is this different lens necessarily a disability when it comes to considering God? What if the autistic mind actually offers advantages when it comes to pondering the ineffable mystery? Temple Grandin, renowned expert on animal behavior who is diagnosed as highly functioning on the autistic spectrum
has contemplated the question of the Divine since she was a little girl. She is a highly functioning woman on the autistic spectrum who is famous for her work creating more humane systems of cattle slaughter. Mary talks to Grandin from her home in Colorado.
You will meet Anthony Easton
. He describes himself as religious, but not spiritual.... a bit of a twist from what we usually hear on Tapestry. Easton was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum at age 14. Today he is a Masters of Theology student at Trinity College
Mary has a conversation with Reverend John Gillibrand
in Wales. His son Adam is low functioning and this has raised some painful questions about what the sacraments mean for someone who probably doesn't understand them - questions that are especially troubling for an Anglican priest.
Then, we'll pay a visit to Beth Tzedec Synagogue
in Toronto where there is a special program for children on the spectrum as they reach the age of bar and bat mitzvah. As it turns out, the children have some surprising views on autism and what it means for their faith.
Also on this episode, a clip from besidemyselfworld
- a performance piece based on the autobiographical writings of Birger Sellin
. Sellin is a teenager in Germany who is on the autistic spectrum and non-verbal. At 17, he learned to type with his mother supporting his arm. besidemyselfworld is by the Canadian art collective, Tones of Voice.