If relating to others is at the heart of being human, where does my autistic son fit in?

This was one of the questions I was asked this week. It was part of a discussion among the women surrounding a book we have started reading together : "Relationships; a mess worth making" by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp. It's a book containing great biblical wisdom, pointing to the heart of what it means to be human.

The starting point is that "God created us to be relational because he is a relational God. God lives in community within the Trinity as Father, Son and Spirit, and he made humanity in his image." (p.9). The depth of the book arises not only from this understanding of God, but also an understanding of us as we relate first to God, and then to other people. Ultimately, to be known for who we really are, and loved for that, is the heart cry of all of us. The difficulties involved in any level of human intimacy are something, it argues, that are well worth the immense effort required, as we become more mature, improve our characters, and gain better self-knowledge. To hide from intimacy in friendships, and deeper, in marriage, because it IS such hard work, is to de-humanise ourselves.

Well this is all very well. But what about the disability which makes relationships the very thing someone can't handle? We discussed autism for a while, acknowledging the vast spectrum of the condition and its effects on the family. We concluded tentatively that an autistic person needs relational intimacy just as much as anyone else, first with God and then with other people. It's just much harder to achieve! And the intensive help he needs, especially from his parents, is worth the effort as it is dignifying and part of being a human created in God's image, to know others and be known by them. So all credit to my friend, who has spent hours coaching her son through how to handle other people in different contexts. It is a life's work and well worth doing, with God's help and within his love.