The value of a spiritual view of autism is that it enables the pain of limitation and helplessness suffered by those who experience significant impairment and those who care for them to be held within a sense of purposefulness and meaning. This can support individuals and families with a sense of truth and love, even during times of greatest challenge.
To begin with, there are many layers of understanding that relate to the phenomenon of autism, and each has to be viewed in its own right.
Within one layer are the demonstrable expressions of impaired neurological functioning that are the basis for such things as seizures, aphasias, difficulty performing routine motor tasks, nervous gestures or tics, and other anomalies of nervous system functioning.
Within another layer are the problems of thought and speech that have to do with difficulties in communication, strange thought patterns related to non-ordinary perception, difficulty forming coherent thoughts or forming thoughts whose sequence is intelligible only to the person expressing them; also patterns of thought and speech that are pervasive that have to do with brain synapse functioning and the ways in which neural energy gets released. All of these aspects of autism are also within the layer defined by physical functioning.
Within a third layer are the social and emotional aspects of autism which are often considerable and which vary in degree from person to person.
Yet, there is still another layer within which lie the reasons that autistic functioning is more prevalent today and also more widely understood. It is this:
For a long time now, humanity's brain function has emphasized the left side of the brain, once the right-brain functions went into recession thousands and thousands of years ago. This left-brain functioning has overemphasized certain aspects of the brain's capacities and eliminated or significantly reduced other capacities associated with right-brain functioning. The need of the time we are in, however, is to bring into balance right and left-brain functioning, and for this purpose, heightened neural and brain activity is needed to connect the two hemispheres. This increased activity requires an adaptation by the human organism in order to tolerate the increased charge to the neural pathways, and sometimes, when this adaptation is incomplete or limited, it is possible for the system to become overcharged or overstimulated, with subsequent problems in releasing the excess energy that is taking place on a cortical level.
This feature is often associated with a particular genetic picture or predisposition and so it is. However, it is also associated with the wider spiritual phenomenon that is occurring today which involves humanity's movement into the next level of its spiritual expression - one in which right and left-brain functioning will be more in balance and in which new capacities will emerge that will enable a wider range of mental and perceptual activities than are present today.
Many of those who are presently diagnosed as 'autistic', today, are the forerunners of this transition into a new level of brain functioning. They do not appear as such because of the limitation that autism brings to their lives on so many levels. But they have chosen to experience this limitation in order that further on in their development, they may express as more evolved and balanced beings and ones for whom more will be possible. The reason for this choice is hidden within the inner motivational pattern of each soul according to its own Divine essence and its need to manifest the truth of who it is. It is not something that can be seen from an outer perspective, or understood within any other frame of reference other than the drive of a soul to seek its own self-realization.
There are, of course, other reasons that are karmic that a soul chooses to experience limitation in this as well as in other areas of life, but the karmic purpose of limitation can also be employed in service to the larger spiritual purpose of evolving brain function and capacity.
To see those who are diagnosed as 'autistic' as forerunners of a new generation of capable souls who will emerge from these very limitations is a perception that requires a deep understanding of the sequence of lifetimes and how they contribute to and enhance one another. Without such a perspective, this context for viewing autism makes no sense. Within such a perspective, however, it may be seen that what has limitation on one side, may have advantage on the other, and that souls may have chosen to experience both the limitation and the advantage because of their desire to quicken their own spiritual development.
The problem of autism is indeed a problem for individuals, for families, and for society as a whole, with much hardship involved on a personal and familial level where the emotional and physical challenges are very great. However, as with any other physically manifesting problem, it can be considered to be an avenue of growth as well as of difficulty. One way of looking at the problem in its present context is to find ways of supporting the positive qualities of functioning and of life that are present within autistic individuals, and to know that these are always there, no matter what outer behaviors may suggest. Such support can go a long way toward affirming the value of a lifetime in which great limitation is present. It can also acknowledge the soul within that has chosen the limitation and can accord to that soul equal dignity and equal opportunity to live to the limits of their capacity, rather than seeing the diagnosis as a detriment to life. Such a view is optimistic and supportive, and allows families and society as a whole to view the sacred life within the limitation, rather than viewing the person as the limitation, thus enabling that person to live a fuller and more fulfilled life.