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Honoring Austism Awareness Month through education and understanding
Featured Article by Ann Grandin

Roy was a toddler when the captivating rhythms of the “Blue Danube Waltz” hijacked his attention, demanded a repeat encounter, and infused him with a strong yearning to carol the musical score. Soon, he added the gestures of famed Dutch conductor, André Rieu, wielding an imaginary bow across a treasured “violin,” which he fashioned from a toy guitar and a Whac-A-Mole mallet. Watching the performances, Roy fancied the energy and period attire of Rieu’s “Austrian” orchestra and, following his staged recreations of Strauss’s masterpiece, he proudly took a bow.

A beloved son and grandson of First Church members Jennifer Lee and Jean Brown, Roy was diagnosed with autism at two-and-a-half. Now nine, he retains the developmental markers of delayed speech, social isolation, and strong resistance to change, but is still a child of diverse and fascinating interests: Roy admires the patterns of cut- crystal goblets and orchestrates his toys by color and size. He records Roman Numerals and logos from credits of favorite Disney and Thomas the Tank Engine shows, inscribing the symbols on the sidewalk in colorful chalk. As neurologist Oliver Sacks observes, autism can be marked by a keen “devotion to the particular.” Expressing the year 2016 as “MMXVI” pays tribute to Roy’s acute and noticing gaze.

Today, with an increasing number of children diagnosed with autism or high-functioning Asperger’s, many know or are possibly related to a child whose neurological expression is unable to comfortably “land” on this earth. What then can we do to ease such a person’s unique and important journey? How do we speak their language?

The month of April, through materials on loan from Jean and new First Church member Ann Grandin, we honor Autism Awareness Month in our Youth, Children’s, and Adult libraries. Here, you can explore, through biography and scientific studies, autism’s “distinct combination of deficits and talents” (Donvan), and, in reading, perhaps discover a bit of a recluse in yourself. There are days, surely, when life’s cacophony makes one long for a symphonic waltz…or moments when confusion demands the instantaneous imposition of pattern. God is the Maker of us all. And when it comes to understanding, we are more alike than different.