Biblical Discipline and Children on the Autism Spectrum

The dramatic rise in the rate of autism diagnoses represents a deep sadness for some twelve million parents and a growing challenge for society at large. Experts tell us that an astonishing 1% of the population is autistic. Is the disturbing autism trend real, or is it just the latest secular excuse for bad behavior in children? For Christians committed to building their lives and their families on the word of God, a diagnosis of autism in a child represents a particularly acute conundrum: To what extent should the world’s methods (particularly behavior modification techniques) be employed, since they are essentially rooted in the work of atheistic psychologist B.F. Skinner?

Dr. Laura Hendrickson is a biblical counselor, former psychiatrist, and the mother of an adult son who (at the age of two) was diagnosed as both autistic and mentally retarded. Years later he would become an honor student at University of California-San Diego. Currently serving at the Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship in San Diego County, Dr. Hendrickson is the author of Finding Your Child’s Way on the Autism Spectrum: Discovering Unique Strengths, Mastering Behavior Challenges, which was recently published by Moody Publishers. It looks excellent. Here’s the publisher’s description:

It seems that nearly everyone knows a family with an autism spectrum child. Most recent figures suggest that the prevalence of all autism spectrum disorders in the United States is an astonishing 1% of the population in the United States, translating to twelve million parents and grandparents that are seeking answers.

There are many books available on how to “cure” an autistic preschooler, but none on how to raise one to adulthood. These promised cures raise parents’ hopes, but most parents will find that they are dealing with a lifelong challenge no matter what they do. Dr. Laura Hendrickson is a trained psychiatrist, biblical counselor¬—and the mother of an autistic child. She understands the struggles parents face as they try to communicate with their autism spectrum child and manage behavior challenges.

Building on Dr. Hendrickson’s medical background as well as her practical experience, Finding Your Child’s Way on the Autism Spectrum presents autism spectrum disorders as a different developmental pathway rather than a disability. Dr. Hendrickson has seen that those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders can make significant contributions to their world. And as a parent of an autistic child, she is able to offer practical solutions to the problems parents face. Dr. Hendrickson does not deny that autism is a serious challenge, but addresses specific ways to work with a child according to his developmental differences, or “way”, to raise his level of function. With an approach that is grounded in a deep understanding of the challenges those caring for autism spectrum children face, Finding Your Child’s Way on the Autism Spectrum gives the reader sound, practical tools for understanding how to guide an autism spectrum child to function more fully as the person God created them to be.

This recent article by Dr. Hendrickson gives a flavor of where she’s coming from on autism spectrum disorders, early intervention, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), medication, vaccines, and the role of pastoral support.

Update:  A review of the book.

2 Responses to “Biblical Discipline and Children on the Autism Spectrum”

  1. deb burton February 23, 2009 at 1:37 pm #

    Thanks for posting this info, Alex. My youngest son was diagnosed with Aspergers at age 5. It has been both a blessing and a challenge to work with him in every aspect of his life. There is always concern for how he will fare in the future, but it brings me great joy to watch him develop over the years into a young man who knows God and who is using his God-given talents in spite of the social difficulties he has.
    I read Dr. Hendrickson’s article with interest and agree with her take on things, based on my own research and observations. I’ll be looking for her book to read as well. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Crystal January 28, 2018 at 3:48 pm #

    I realize this post was from 8 years ago, but is there any way to retrieve the link to the article? ( doesn’t work). I would really like to be able to read it. Thank you!

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