When I became a father I was so excited about raising a child. I eagerly awaited the arrival of my son and when he joined our family I immediately fell in love all over again. It was an amazing journey raising him through infancy and early childhood.
When he was a toddler I noticed there was something extremely different about him, but I could not put my finger on it. It was his preschool teacher that helped me understand what was happening. She’d observed what appeared to her as “sensory processing” problems.
The environment of a structured preschool socially overwhelmed him. He would not interact with the other children and he was always found doing his own thing away from others. He was kind of trapped inside his own little world.
Social situations overstimulated him to the point where he’d have to sooth himself with various hand motions in front of his face. Slowly, over time, he joined the group and preschool became a therapy for him in all kinds of ways that he was developmentally behind with.
My wife and I decided to have him checked and what we got back was the diagnoses of “high functioning Autism.” Autism can be an extremely frightening word for a parent, and the term hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew something was wrong, so part of me was relieved that we now had a direction to go in and didn’t have to guess anymore.
I’m very glad that my family were not Jehovah’s Witnesses through that part of my life. I cannot imagine trying to get to meetings, stay at meetings and go out in regular field service while having a child with special needs. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to take him to stadiums full of 10,000 people where they all clap simultaneously to someone speaking on a loud PA.
That, I can safely say, would be absolute hell.
Apparently, that’s exactly what families are doing according to the October 2015 JW Broadcasting episode (53:45). It features a testimony given by a young boy who happens to have the same diagnosis as my son.
Not the whole picture
The video is well produced and directed, and has a very effective soundtrack. The boy tells the story about how being a Jehovah’s Witnesses is “easy,” but didn’t use to be. At first being Autistic was extremely difficult, both for him and his parents, but over time things got better and he ended up loving his life as a Jehovah’s Witness.
I must admit the boy seems genuinely content with his life, but the producers of the film are not telling you the whole story. The boy recalls that, at first, the congregation didn’t understand his issues, but then he goes on to say:
“The friends in the congregation have helped me by doing whatever they need to do to help me stay on the road to life.”
When you read the above statement just as words on a screen, away from the rich production, they come across totally differently. In the video there are light chimes and a spirited piano melody playing in the background. Strip away all that, and it’s easier to see the true state of affairs.
His congregation believes in a scenario where their deity would brutally execute an Autistic boy for not being a Jehovah’s’ Witness. That’s why they are helping him, because they see him as being in grave danger.
This amounts to phobia indoctrination, and is tantamount to coercion by way of emotional control. In other words, they are using the fear of an imminent and painful death to retain his membership in their religion.
The very next scene shows the boy and his mother at a desk with one of the JW.org comic strips laid out next to a self-typed report. This really shows that the comics are not mere leisure activities, but are actually study tools for the young Witness children.
These comics sometimes cover stories in the Bible with extremely graphic content, such as their comic on the story of Lot’s wife and her divine execution. The pictures they use to depict her death are extremely graphic and intense.
Instead of being simple fables, these stories are considered to be historical accounts that are taken extremely seriously. No doubt the Autistic boy in the film has studied these images, and is deeply affected by them.
Using fear in this manner is no way to raise any child, let alone one with special needs.
Only a matter of time
Even though the video really does have this depressing feel to it, there is a silver lining to the story. No matter how hard the Watchtower tries to control the information their membership takes in, they can’t control it all. Because of the time that this Autistic boy lives in, he will no doubt one day encounter the other side of the story. He will find his way to the ex-JW’s.
High functioning Autistic people are often highly logical and have a knack for critical thinking. There is one thing that the organization is lacking severely: logic. Their doctrines don’t make sense, and as this child grows up he will undoubtedly see this.
There are so many plot holes in the story that the Watchtower tells about itself. There are so many questions they leave unanswered or half-answered. Once this boy encounters the truth about the “Truth,” it will all likely start to click for him, and he will leave. Unfortunately, as ex-JW’s know, this experience doesn’t come without a price, and is never easy.
If you are a parent with an Autistic child, and you are a Jehovah’s Witness or considering joining, I urge you to proceed with extreme caution. Watchtower is an organization with a history of exploiting children for their own gain. And judging by this new video, they are not above targeting children with special needs and their families.
In my experience there is a lot of support available for families who are caring for children with special needs. There are a lot of people out there who want to help, and don’t employ undue influence, like group shunning or phobia indoctrination.
One of the most important things you can do is create a strong support system of people who will be with you through the good times and the bad. The worst thing you could do is surround yourself with people who love conditionally, impair critical thinking and are constantly obsessing over the end of the world.