Spirituality, silence and solitude: A reflective interpretation regarding mystery and people with nonverbal autism
Karenne Hills, Jayne Clapton & Pat Dorsett
People with severe (nonverbal) autism are considerably under-researched and misunderstood. This is despite the number of diagnoses growing at epidemic proportions. Approximately 30% of people with autism are placed on the severe end of the spectrum, demonstrating social communication issues and severe speech deficits. This paper provides a reflection concerning the findings of a research study that explored the spirituality of people with barriers to traditional religious exposure, through the context of people with nonverbal autism. Spirituality and autism is a relatively new discipline, with scant information available pertaining to those with severe autism. Yet the humanness of this group, underpinned by the theological premise that values all people as carriers of the Imago Dei, is worthy of consideration. The traditional mystical disciplines of silence and solitude as enhancing spiritual awareness are explored alongside the life context that accompanies severe autism. Heightened sensitivity to sensory input typical of the condition is thought to be relevant to more subjective perceptions such as atmospheric changes and spiritual aptitude. Research data relaying unusual spiritual perception and experiences were confirmed by a number of works authored by people with nonverbal autism. This suggests the possibility that the life context of this population can be seen as conducive to spiritual aptitude rather than as a neurological deficit.