Book Review: God Loves the Autistic Mind
No experience is quite as difficult as being misunderstood. Who we are as persons—belonging to a wider group of people—is tightly intertwined with our ability to communicate. When we are misunderstood, it is not simply frustration at some technical breakdown; instead, something more fundamental about us is brought into question. When we misunderstand ourselves and our relationship with God, this dissonance is even more jarring.
I have been blessed to live with my autistic son, Elias, for 15 years. During that time, I have come to appreciate from Elias the fundamental frustration of misunderstandings. Nowhere has this been more apparent than trying to teach prayer. An already difficult task for most parents, it is especially challenging for a mind that thinks quite differently from my own.
Happily, Father Matthew P. Schneider’s new book, God Loves the Autistic Mind, provides a path to understanding differently in place of misunderstanding. As the subtitle indicates, the book is a “prayer guide for those on the spectrum and those who love us.” Indeed, the first thing I did after reading the book was share it with my son, because I wanted to know what he would say. As is often the case, he surprised me with his take.
I anticipated hearing how particular pieces of advice struck him, how the lists of information organized things for him, or how the structure of the reflections might appeal to him. But this was a manifestation of my misunderstanding of how this book was written for autistic minds. Because of the attention Father Schneider pays to how the autistic mind works, Elias was able to cut to the heart of the book—how to pray. My son was moved to sympathy for other autistic people’s struggles, as outlined by Father Schneider. He let me know he would pray for them—a ringing endorsement for the book!
As a non-autistic person, I now realize why the structural and contextual organization of the book is so helpful. From the straightforward but thorough way Part One lays out its argument, to the tried, true, and reassuring repetition of Part Two’s meditations on prayer, anyone with an autistic loved one will smile with familiarity. Elsewhere it might be viewed as a stylistic weakness, but here that perspective profoundly misunderstands what is so wonderful about the book. Father Schneider has enabled for us an understanding insight into a framing of mind so often misunderstood. This makes God Loves the Autistic Mind a triumph, for it shows us how to better love the autistic mind.
Bo Bonner is Senior Advisor for Mission Initiatives, Director of the Center for Human Flourishing at Mercy College in Des Moines and the co-host of the UnCommon Good on Iowa Catholic Radio.
God Loves the Autistic Mind by Father Matthew P. Schneider, LC; Pauline Books & Media US; $16.95; 224 pages; June 10, 2022.
This article appeared in the December 2022 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.