Our guest this week is Ron Sandison of Rochester Hills, MI who is an Autistic man, a psychiatric care specialist at UHS Havenwyck Hospital, a professor at the Divinity School of Ministry, a speaker, an author of several books, and founder of Spectrum Inclusion, which empowers young adults with Autism for independence and employment through mentoring and conferences.
Ron and his wife, Kristen, have been married for 10 years and are the proud parents of Mikayla (6).
Ron’s books include:
- A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom.
- Views from the Spectrum: A Window into Life and Faith with Your Neurodivergent Child
- Thought, Choice, Action: Decision-Making that Releases the Holy Spirit’s Power
Another one of Ron’s gifts is that he has memorized and can recall over 5000 bible verses.
Ron has an amazing story to tell and we’ll hear it this week on the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast.
Show Notes –
Spectrum Inclusion: https://www.spectruminclusion.com
Ron’s Books on Amazon:
Tom Couch: Special thanks to Horizon Therapeutics for sponsoring the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast, working tirelessly to research, develop, and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about Horizon Therapeutics’ mission at HorizonTherapeutics.com.
Ron Sandison: Any fool can see an apple on a tree, but it takes dedication, vision and love to see an apple orchard in that seed. And I encourage parents to let the child lead them in learning. See where the child interest is. Take that interest. Let ’em learn at their own pace. If a child’s learning, slower than someone else, work with them. Show love and acceptance. The number one quality it takes in helping a person with a disability is two things, love and acceptance. And if you have that, even if you mess up along the way, the grace of God is gonna get you through it.
Tom Couch: That’s our guest this week, Ron Sandison, an autistic man who’s written several books, has memorized and can recall over 5,000 Bible verses, is a psychiatric care specialist and a father to six year old McKayla.
He’s got an amazing story to tell. And we’ll hear it this week on the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. Say hello now to our host, David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the Dad to Dad Podcast, fathers mentoring fathers of children with special needs, presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs. Through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support dads. To find out more, go to 21stCenturyDads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com, groups, and search “dad to dad”.
Tom Couch: And now let’s hear this fascinating conversation between Ron Sandison and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I am thrilled to be talking today with Ron Sandison of Rochester Hills, Michigan, who’s a psychiatric care specialist at UHS Havenwick Hospital, a professor at the Divinity School of Ministry, a speaker, author, and founder of Spectrum Inclusion, which empowers young adults with autism to develop independence and find employment through mentoring and conferences.
Ron, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the Special Fathers Network.
Ron Sandison: Well, thanks so much for having me on your program today.
David Hirsch: You and your wife Kristen, have been married for 10 years and are the proud parents of Makayla, who’s six. Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Ron Sandison: So I grew up in Rochester Hills, Michigan. The thing the high school I went to, Rochester Adams, is most famous for is Madonna is a graduate from the same high school I went to. And when I was diagnosed with autism in 1982, only one in every 10,000 children were diagnosed with autism. Now the prevalence is one in every 44 children. And when I was diagnosed, they didn’t give my mom much hope. They told my mom if I had autism, I’d never read beyond the seventh grade level, never attend college, never have meaningful relationships. And my mom being a great mom was determined to prove the experts wrong.
She quit her job as an art teacher, became a full-time Ron teacher, and she prayed that the Holy Spirit would show her and teach me how to learn. And using a prairie dog, she was able to teach me social skills. And I was in intense speech therapy all the way from age two to 16 and using the Prairie dog, I learned those social skills.
David Hirsch: I love that story. I want to go back a little bit further though. My recollection was that you were the youngest of three boys and that your dad was an architect.
Ron Sandison: So my dad was an architect for GM for 35 years and he had a special interest, Frank Lloyd Wright. In fact, every family vacation we’d go on, he’d find a Frank Lloyd Wright house and he’d knock on the door and say, I met Frank Wright while I was in college at Lawrence Tech and I’d love to give you a tour of your house and tell you everything about Frank Lloyd Wright. In fact, my dad built our house in Rochester Hills based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s design. Frank Lloyd Wright’s design was, you gotta bring nature into your house.
And my dad was a big influence in my life because he had a Protestant work ethic. If a man will not work, he shall not eat, II Thessalonians 3:10. So my whole life he had me working and as I worked with my disabilities, I learned how to connect with people. I learned how to handle social issues in the workplace, how to interact, how to regulate my money. My dad had three rules of money. First 10% goes to God, second 10% goes in a bank, and then the final 80% you can use to spend the way you wanna spend your money.
David Hirsch: Yeah. I love that story about using these biblical references and disciplining yourself with your finances. I was also the benefactor of some advice like that. My maternal grandfather, Sam Solomon, was a little bit simpler. He said, pay yourself first, always save 10% and then discipline yourself to live on the balance. And he said that you’ll still have problems in life, but your problems will be less of a financial nature. And that’s what came to mind when I was hearing you recall this advice from your dad.
Speaking of your dad, I’m curious to know how would you characterize your relationship with your dad.
Ron Sandison: Me and my dad have a great relationship. This Saturday he turned 88 years old and he still is sharp as a whip. He remembers all the little details of life and he always has perfect advice for when I’m going through a situation.
I remember in seminary, I was going through a season where I felt like I didn’t have the skills to do what God was calling me to get my master of divinity. I was taking first year Greek and I seemed overwhelmed because I remembered in high school when I took Spanish, I wasn’t able to pass it. And my dad said one simple thing. He said, if God’s gotten you this far, he’s gonna get you through. Philippians 1:6 says, being confident this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. And he said, all you can do is trust in God. And he said, Psalms 25:3 says, no one who trusts in you will ever be put to shame. So God is gonna get you through this. And I ended up doing that. And what I end up learning is that Spanish is way different than Greek. I can’t learn Spanish cuz it’s a phonetic language. You go to Spain, they’re speaking Spanish, so it’s phonetic. But Greek is a dead language, so you learn it by visual learning.
And years later, I’d find out as I listened to Temple Grand and the 80% of people like me with autism and me included, are visual learners. So I was able to master the Greek language. I’ve been now teaching it for over 20 years, and I still to this day remember 20 plus years ago my dad telling me on the phone from Rochester Hills while I was in Tulsa, 930 miles away, you just gotta give it into God’s hand. He’s gonna get you through this. And I can state now that I’ve translated two thirds of New Testament from Greek in the English. Alexander the Great would be proud of me.
David Hirsch: That’s remarkable advice from your dad. And I’m wondering if there’s any other lessons that come to mind when you think about your dad.
Ron Sandison: I think about this too, is when a kid has a disability and they have a dream, help them fulfill that dream. Whatever it takes, be that accommodation as a dad. And I remember my dad, when I came to him, I said, I wanna go to Oral Roberts University, his first response was, years ago I visited the university and I know it’s designed by the same designer as Epcot Center. And having autism and going to that place, it looks like the Jetsons in all these different rooms. It’s gonna be hard for you to find your way around. Bought airline tickets for me and him, and he said, college weekend, we’re gonna go out there. We’re gonna see if this is really what God’s calling you to. When I went there, I fell in love with the university and you could see the gleam in my eye.
You could see that God had a calling for me to be there. And he said, you’re gonna go to Oral Roberts, but… And there’s an old saying when there’s a “but” in the way, you negotiate the first part. And he said, but you’re gonna have to go to Rochester University your first year of college because you got full ride for track and cross country and it will help prepare you. And that “but” was the Holy Spirit, cuz here’s why. If I would’ve entered Oral Roberts University right outta high school, I would’ve had to spend $20,000 on college classes because I didn’t have high enough grades to get accepted there. But by going to Rochester College, I ended up getting a 4.0 there and I came in, as it talks about in Genesis 45:20, you’ll enter in a high hand. And I end up entering Oral Roberts on a high hand. And when I went to Oral Roberts my first semester, again, my dad flew out to ORU with me. He showed me where all the classrooms were. He showed me where the Student Resource Center would be where I need help on writing papers. He introduced me to residents advisor in case I had any needs. He introduced me to the chaplain in case I had a need spiritually, and then he tried to find out who the leaders were at the university and get me connected with them. And he always introduced me to people, you need to meet my son Ron. He has over 5,000 bible verses memorized. So people were impressed. And then it opened up the door for me to enter there and I had friends already there when I got there.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Thank you for sharing. It was very insightful. One of the thoughts that comes to mind that actions speak louder than words, right? Your dad rolled his sleeves up, did things with you, took you to Oral Roberts University, and I don’t wanna say paved the way, he helped connect some dots for you and it seems like that assistance indirectly helped pave the way for your success there. So thanks for sharing. And I’m wondering if there’s anybody else that comes to mind, that played an influential role in your life?
Ron Sandison: Very influential, older gentleman in my life was Dr. Jack Van Impe. I always joke that I started out as a television evangelist rather than just a minister. And I had one rule: let me quote one verse and people would ask me about my running and I’d preach the gospel to them. Everyone would say, when they heard me quote the Bible, you sound like Dr. Jack Van Impe. And the first time I ever saw Dr. Jack Van Impe’s show in 1995, he began his TV show like this. I never had an open house, but I’m at my first open house and I thought he is probably out in Texas, California, somewhere warm. And he says it’s right in Rochester Hills. So it was right where I was from.
So I go and I meet him and the thing he does when I meet him and he finds out I have 2000 verses memorized and I’m only 18 years old, is he starts like a machine gun, giving me all these verses. And then one by one I gave him verse reference perfect. And he was awestruck.
And he looked at me and said, when you get into college, you’re gonna be my first intern at my international ministry. And when I got into college, my senior year, when I had to do my intern, I interned right under Dr. Jack Van Impe. And I’ll never forget… he hit his head. he said, I can’t remember the verse. And I said that Psalms 8:2, Matthew 21:16, from lips of children infants, you have ordained praise. And his producer Tom, covered up the microphone and said, I can’t tell Dr. Jack Van Impe he was shown up by his young intern.
So he was a very big impact on my life. He passed away at the very beginning of COVID on January 18th. What’s interesting is he told everyone, these plagues are coming and God’s gonna take me out before it comes. And he literally died right before COVID, but since they were having such a big funeral, they had it a month later. So literally the next day they announced COVID after his body was taken out from his funeral in the hearse, just like he predicted.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Thank you for sharing What a touching story about your relationship with Dr. Jack Van Impe. And my recollection was you mentioned another Dr. Lawrence Becker, and I’m wondering what, if any role that he played.
Ron Sandison: So Dr. Lawrence Becker had a huge influence on my life, too. He took me out to Austin, Texas to preach a few times and speak at different events and speak, do speaking events. And he included me in a movie called Fierce Love and Art. And it’s a movie about parents who use their children’s with special needs, special interests in art, and use them to develop social skills and use them to be able to communicate with their environment and to thrive in life.
And one of the things that inspires me most about Dr. Lawrence A. Becker is his total passion for helping people with disability. At 85 years old, to have his movie in a conference. He drove all the way from Austin, Texas, by himself to California. And I don’t know many people who would do that. And every time you talk to him, he has that passion, that love for people with disabilities.
And he has one of the largest savant and prodigy of autistic art collection in his home. And he loves to show his art collection. And he had a real impact on me, both in the movie and as a mentor. I see him as a person who you can, when you’re older, you can keep burning. It says still bear fruit in old age and stay fresh and green in the Psalms.
David Hirsch: Thanks for sharing. I’m curious to know what role you played in that movie.
Ron Sandison: So I was one of seven other young adults who have autism and my story is shared in there with how my mom and dad used art to help me learn. He shares about the severe speech delay I had to overcome. I was in speech therapy from age two to 16. When I was seven, my speech was so delayed. My brother Chuck would introduce me to people. You need my brother Ron, I think he’s from Norway. And he also shares about Prairie Pups. Prairie Pups met more celebrities than any prairie dog I’ve ever known. He’s met Muhammad Ali, Roberta Flack, Screech from Saved by the Bell and many other people.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Thanks for sharing. That’s touching. My recollection was, and you made reference to this you went to Oral Roberts University, you took a BA in Practical Ministry in Psychology, and then you got a Master’s of Divinity and a minor in Greek. And when you were starting your career after your education, where did you think your career was gonna take you?
Ron Sandison: So I actually thought my career was, I’d start out as a youth pastor. I’d someday have my own church, be a senior pastor. And what ended up happening with two years of being in the ministry, everything fell apart. And my dad at first told me, don’t tell people about your disabilities. Let them see your gifts and focus on those.
But it was actually the disability in me sharing that where people were able to connect. Every person has some weakness or some limitation, but our limitations are a good thing because they make us an expert in other areas or areas that we’re stronger in. As we use our strengths, we compensate for our weaknesses.
And my dad said to focus in on just your strengths and not let people know about your disabilities. And when I ended up reaching rock bottom, God ended up using my disability to build a platform and a ministry. Our greatest ministry is a healing of our greatest hurt. And that’s how it was for me.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Thanks for sharing. It is your foundation. And speaking of being part of your foundation, I’m curious to know how did you and Kristen meet?
Ron Sandison: So we met on Plenty of Fish. If it was plenty of squid, I’d still be single. If it was plenty of wheel, I might have gotten suffocated. So it took over 300 dates with different girls to meet my wife and I had a lot of funny stories along the way.
Having autism, I often say comments. It would not get me a second date. Or I’d have awkward behavior. One thing was I’d always shake a little bit cuz I’d be anxious and people would see that. Or more than others, I’d be stemming and people would see that. So when I met my wife. Kristen, everything just fell in the place.
And then after two years of dating, we end up getting married. We went for our second honeymoon to Israel for two weeks.
David Hirsch: Yeah. I love it. And for people who aren’t familiar with it, Plenty of Fish is a Christian dating site, isn’t it?
Ron Sandison: Yeah.
David Hirsch: Okay. It sounds like you were a successful fisherman then.
Ron Sandison: Yeah.
David Hirsch: So let’s talk about special needs. You’ve already made reference to some of the personal aspects of it on a personal level first, and then we’ll talk about it beyond. So recall for me, when was your diagnosis made and how did it come about?
Ron Sandison: So my diagnosis came in 1982 at Henry Ford Hospital, and what brought about the diagnosis is when I entered kindergarten, my development was so delayed, my social interaction was so delayed that the school experts wanted to label me emotionally impaired.
And my mom said, it’s not emotional, it’s neurological. And if you can’t tell me what’s going on with my son she said I’ll take him to the hospital, have a psychologist work with him and come back to you. And Dr. Delgado worked with me three days, just me. And then he came back with the diagnosis with autism.
And when I diagnosed it was only one in 10,000. So it was very rare. The school experts told my mom things I wouldn’t accomplish, and my mom said, he’s gonna be educated. I’m gonna help him learn in the ways that he has his deficits. And I like to say my parents were a tag team. Like in wrestling. My mom was the one who got all the resources. My dad was the one who provided the money for the resources. So they worked together well.
David Hirsch: Thanks for sharing. So it was about kindergarten age that I understand that you were diagnosed. And if you can think back to that point in time and as a young adult what have been some of your greatest challenges?
Ron Sandison: So I think some of my greatest challenges was communication. I couldn’t say ‘TH’ words or “L” words and people would make fun of me because of how I talked and I received a lot of bullying and going through issues of not being able to be invited to parties or not being able to do things that other people did that they took for granted.
So I went through a lot of challenges and one of the major challenges in high school as I was past the age. We went to compete in high school athletics, I had to have the first major Americans with Disabilities case to compete.
David Hirsch: So when you say the first case, what was the name of that case and what was the outcome of it?
Ron Sandison: So it was Sandison vs the MHSAA. So I was one of the fastest 800 meter relay runners in Michigan, and my 3,200 relay was one of the fastest in the United States for the 3,200. And they weren’t gonna let me compete my senior year. What ended up happening is we made the state finals my junior year. And the anchor on our relay, Nate says, next year will be the fastest relay in the state of Michigan and won the fastest in the US but we won’t have Ron on our relay. And right then the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, I’ll provide a way for you to run on the track team. I said, I’m gonna run on the track team. I don’t know how this is gonna happen. And my mom and dad, they called every lawyer. Every lawyer said it’d be over $40,000, which we couldn’t afford. And my parents both said, sat me down, said we gotta pray. Give this into God’s hand. If he spoke to you, what God speaks will come to pass.
So we gave it into God’s hand, and about a week later on the front page of the Detroit Free Press was a young man named Craig Stanley. He was born May 1975. Same year, same month as me. He was a track and cross country runner with a disability. And they weren’t gonna let him compete. So my family got with his family, and the first words out of my mouth is me and Craig are gonna compete on the track team. And my mom and dad had Detroit Free Press have a second article. They had a picture of me with Craig and said, two young men civil rights are being violated. And it was on the front page, Detroit Free Press that Wednesday. The Sunday after the Wednesday, I got water baptized and when I came outta the water, the minister looked at me and said, I normally don’t have a word from God, but I know I heard from God and I saw something when you came outta that water. Joel 2:25, I repay the years that the locust have eaten, the great locust, the young locust were my great army of ceremony. He said there was a disability and other things in your life that ate away like a locust and God’s repaying it and he’s giving you a message.
And I came home and the answering machine was blinking red. When I pressed the button, 9:00 AM came up. Same time I got outta the water. And it began this way: Hi, my name’s Rick Landle. I just got my PhD from Boston College. I have my law degree from the University of Michigan and I wanna take your case pro bono. So when God has a case, he has someone armed and dangerous waiting for you. And he took my case and we won.
David Hirsch: That’s just amazing. Thank you for sharing. It sounds like there’s been a number of instances of divine intervention in your life and that’s just a primary example.
Ron Sandison: Yeah, there’s been many intervention all throughout my life with different things and different situations I went through, even me getting the contract for my first book, God used a television evangelist name Pastor Rod Parsley. I interviewed him for my book. They had me come out and speak at his church. And when I got done, his wife text Charisma House and say, I know you’re gonna do the right thing. This book that this young man has written is more important than anything I and Rod have ever written because it involves our son and he’s the most important person after Jesus in our lives. And within 24 hours I had a contract. Right then it was just on a desk. Went from being on a desk to being signed.
David Hirsch: Yeah. It’s beautiful. Thank you again for sharing. So when you look back, maybe it was during high school, was there a turning point when you went from being bullied, you went from being excluded from social aspects of things and then you know, you were able to take these challenges that you were experiencing and then you know, propel yourself forward?
Ron Sandison: Yeah, so the turning point was my junior year. I had gotten into drinking, drugs and I had put off the running. And a girl invited me back to Faith Youth Group where I went to church, Faith EPC in Rochester. And she says, God’s doing awesome things. And when I heard the message it spoke to my heart. I regain or dedicate my life to Jesus as Lord Savior.
And then God started blessing my track. My junior year we had a great group of guys who were fast runners and I was one of ’em. We made the state finals. And then we just made the state finals by about a foot. And I say that foot describes the journey I had with God is that when it seemed impossible, God would move me ahead that extra foot and get me to where I needed to be. And every step of the way, God was there.
David Hirsch: Was there some meaningful advice that you can remember getting? I know that you made reference to the things that your mom did, things that your dad did. Was there anybody beyond those that you’ve already mentioned that gave you some advice that helped you clarify things?
Ron Sandison: Pastor Daniel Grimes. He was one of the real influences in my life, and he always told me this: don’t allow fear to engulf you, but allow the freedom of Christ to keep you able to move freely in the ministry, move freely in your life. And he noticed that there was something quirky about me. He didn’t know at the time that I had autism, but he knew that I had struggled with fear and anxiety and he was one who really encouraged me to use the gifts God had in my life. And in fact, he had me write an essay for an award they have at Oral Roberts University called the Overcomers Award. And I end up graduating and getting that Overcomers Award and getting to share my essay in front of 5,000 students at chapel at ORU. So he was another person and he really encouraged me not to let fear to hold me back. I think that was some of the best advice I’ve ever received.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Thank you for sharing. So I’m thinking about the impact your autism has had on your extended family or your marriage, and I’m wondering what comes to mind.
Ron Sandison: So some of the ways autism affects me as a dad is sometimes I get super anxious. I have to tell my daughter before we go to the pool or before we go to the park, like today I gotta do my memory work. And I go over my Bible verses for about two hours and then I’ll take her to the park or to the pool. We just began a new scheduling of how we work at the hospital. I used to work five days a week, eight hours a day, and now we’ve moved to 12 hour shifts. So I work three days a week. Two days, 12 hour shifts, and then 16 hours another shift of the three, and it gives me more time. Now I have four days rather than just two days to spend with my family. With autism, working with a new routine, I’m just getting in to figure out when do I do my Bible memory work with this new routine? When will I take my daughter to park in the pool? So with autism, it’s different as a dad. You’re less spontaneous and you’re more routine.
David Hirsch: So if I can paraphrase what you’ve said that transition from being where you have been in that comfort zone to moving to a different situation is something that you still need to manage even to this day.
Ron Sandison: Yeah, so I still have a difficulty with transition. In fact, they say in the DSM, generalization and transition are two of the main deficits with autism. We have a difficult time transitioning. We have difficult time generalizing one concept to another concept, and I find that very true in my own life.
David Hirsch: Thanks for sharing. I love your transparency and you didn’t say this right out, but I know this just from the reading I’ve done and the other interviews that you’ve done, that you have this savant ability for memory and you can quote over 10,000 scripture verses including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes. And I’m wondering when did you realize this is one of your superpowers?
Ron Sandison: So here’s an interesting story. My reading level was at a seventh grade level coming into my junior year of high school. And then God spoke to me and said, memorize my word. In my first year, my junior year, I started memorizing the scriptures, and now I’ve read more books than anyone I know during the last decade. I’ve read exactly 1,123 books, and I remember about 80% of what I read. So I didn’t realize I had this gift and talent until my junior year. And it says, A kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field. When you find it, you sell everything and buy it. And that’s how it was with memorizing the Bible is when I discovered I had this gift, all of a sudden I spend two hours every day memorizing the Bible. When I get up in the morning, I do my Bible memory work before work and then after work, and the word lives in me and it produces fruits in my life.
David Hirsch: Yeah, I love it. It’s a beautiful story. And I know that we talked earlier about Jim Stovall, one of the other dads in the network, and I’m wondering if you remember how much reading he’s also done?
Ron Sandison: Oh, he’s done a lot of reading. He’s also written over 50 books. One of my favorite Jim Stovall stories is… I listen to him and watch his videos… is he talks about when he is, before he loses his sight, he’s one of the top football players and the University of Alabama is offering full ride. And when he goes visits there, the coach sends him out to the red zone and he says, there’s two types of people in this world. There’s a person when the game is… they can tie the game or they can win the game with a two point conversion, they’re gonna take the two point conversion. And he said, the second kind of person I’m looking for is a person who’s friends with that person because they’re gonna do the same thing. And that’s what I see what Jim Stovall is. He’s the type, when the game is on the line, he doesn’t wanna just tie the game. He wants to win the game.
And that’s how I see myself too, is that I feel real… I’m real competitive when it comes to speaking and doing events and when things get canceled I take it personally sometime. I was supposed to go to Kansas and then today I got a email that the conference I was supposed to speak there was gonna be canceled and I was looking forward to leaving Michigan and going out to another state to speak cuz then I could mark it off on the United States calendar, a place that I’ve spoken before. I see myself as that person out there going for the two rather than the one.
David Hirsch: Yeah, I love it. I could talk to you for hours and hours about Jim Stovall. I have so much admiration for him. He’s one of my mentors, one of the guys I’ve admired and looked up to for decades and decades. Just another example of God working through somebody through their sort of a disability, in his case, losing his sight, but not wallowing in his deficit. But trying to take that and use that as the springboard to do some great things like he has, like you have.
Let’s talk about special needs beyond your own personal experience. I’d like first to talk about Spectrum Inclusion, which you founded in 2015, whose mission is empowering young adults with autism to develop independence and find employment through mentoring and conferences. What was your vision for that and what’s the scope of the program?
Ron Sandison: There’s only 3% of people with autism are gainfully employed. So my goal is to help it be 90% of people. But as I’ve written my fourth book, Autism Growth and Transitioning Adult, and interviewed hundreds of professional, hundreds of young adults, I realize that my scope now is to try and bring universal healthcare to the United States.
David Hirsch: I wanna go back and talk about the programs at Spectrum Inclusion. So from a practical perspective, if somebody is raising a child, a young boy or a young girl with autism or young adult for that matter, what is it that Spectrum Inclusion does?
Ron Sandison: So Spectrum Inclusion does this. They offer ’em resources where they can learn how to empower that young adult for employment, for relationships, even just handling social conflict.
I just got a email the other day from someone from the UK who is having issues with the church and social conflict and… Answer email, talk to ’em. And then I do about 70 speaking engagements a year. Doing workshops. I just did a workshop at a ABA center the other day, so I teach ABA therapists how to work with young adults with autism. And then families, they have young adults with autism. They go to my workshops and learn those skills. And then also mentoring. I get questions and emails on those questions.
David Hirsch: Great. So the workshops. Are those virtual workshops that anybody could get plugged into from, regardless of where they’re located?
Ron Sandison: They’re mainly now in person. So I go to ABA Centers, conferences have me come. Some are virtual, some are in person. It’s about 50-50. It used to be a hundred percent in person, but lately it’s been a lot of virtual events.
Tom Couch: We’ll be back with more of the conversation on the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast in just a few moments. But first, this quick message. Please help 21st Century Dads gather research on families raising children with special needs by having them complete the Special Fathers Network Early Intervention Parents Survey. A link to the survey can be found in the show notes. As a token of our appreciation, each person, mom or dad, who completes the survey, will receive a Great Dad Coin. Thank you. Now back to the conversation.
David Hirsch: So let’s switch gears and talk about the books. You’ve written a number of books and in order of their publication the first was “A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom.” which came out in 2016. The second book is “Thought, Choice, Action: Decision-Making that Releases the Holy Spirit’s Power” in 2018. After that, it was “Views from the Spectrum”, which came out in 2021. And I’m wondering if we could spend a moment just talking about the highlights of each of the books to give our listeners a better understanding of your work.
Ron Sandison: So “A Parents Guide to Autism” begins with diagnosis. It teaches parents how to look at the child’s needs and then where the resources are. Also, how to empower children with autism to be able to use the gifts that they have and refine them into social skills.
My second book, “Thought, Choice, Action” is on St. Augustine and it shares with spiritual growth and also Christian apologetics. It’s a mixture of how we can grow in our faith, but then also as we grow in our faith, we’re gonna share our faith. My favorite Saint Augustine quote for the disability community is this: by loving the unlovable, God has made me lovable. And many times breaking fine China, I was unlovable. But with God’s grace I became lovable.
And then my third book, “Views from the Spectrum: A Window Into Life and Faith With Your Neurodivergent Child” shares 20 remarkable people. Their faith on the autism spectrum like Armani Williams and NASCAR driver, Rachel Barcelona, Miss Tampa, and how you can parent your child on the spectrum and help them to thrive. I give parenting advice, I give scripture and a devotional at the end of each chapter with a remarkable story of a young man or woman on the spectrum. Even Kimberly Dixon, who is nonverbal, yet she wrote these amazing poems about Jesus and poetry, how God was able to use her voice for him.
David Hirsch: I love it. Thank you for sharing. And did you mention that there’s a fourth book in the making?
Ron Sandison: So I just finished writing my fourth book, Autism Growth and Transition in Adulthood. What I like to share is that none of my books ever had the title I came up with. So I don’t know what the title will be. Craig is offering me a contract for it. I’m just waiting for the contract to come to sign. They already told my agent Bob, they were giving me a contract, so I’m waiting for that right now.
David Hirsch: Thank you. So I’m thinking about advice now and I’m wondering what advice you can share with parents raising a child either with autism or another type of special need for that matter.
Ron Sandison: I love this quote. Any fool can see an apple on a tree, but it takes dedication, vision and love to see an apple orchard in that seed. And I encourage parents to let the child lead them in learning. See where the child interest is. Take that interest. Let ’em learn at their own pace. If a child’s learning slower than someone else, work with them. Show love and acceptance. The number one quality it takes in helping a person with a disability is two things, love and acceptance. And if you have that, even if you mess up along the way, the grace of God is gonna get you through it.
David Hirsch: Yeah, words of wisdom. Thank you for sharing. I’m wondering is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up, Ron?
Ron Sandison: So in with my favorite quote, Charles Spurgeon said, by perseverance, the snail made it on the ark. So no matter how slow your child’s development is, if you get ’em going in the right direction, you get the grace of God in there. They’re gonna reach their goal. There’s an old saying that if you have a glider and you jump off a cliff, if the wind’s not blowing, it’s gonna go [crash sounds]. But if you jump right when the wind is going, you’re gonna glide and the Holy Spirit will guide you. So get on your glider. Jump off when the wind is going. Let God guide you and he’ll show you how to raise that child and what needs they need met. He’ll bring the people to meet those needs. It says in Philippians 4:19, my God will supply of all of your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
And earlier in verse 13, it talks about, I can do all things through Christ who strengthened me. In the actual Greek it’s actually, I can endure all things through Christ who strengthened me. Cause there’s some things you’ll never be able to do. I’ll never be able to fly a jet. I’ll never be able to be Bill Gates. But I can endure all things through Christ who strengthened me.
David Hirsch: Yeah, it’s beautiful. Thank you. I wish we had more time. So let’s give a special shout out to our mutual friend and Special Fathers Network mentor, father John Felageller and podcast dad number 65 for helping connect us.
Ron Sandison: Thanks so much for connecting us.
David Hirsch: If somebody wants to learn more about Spectrum Inclusion or contact you, what’s the best way to do that?
Ron Sandison: So the best way to contact me is my email: Sandison456@hotmail.com. And then if you Google Spectrum Inclusion or Ron Sandison, Spectrum Inclusion comes right up.
David Hirsch: Excellent. We’ll be sure to include that in the show notes. Ron, thank you for taking the time and many insights. As a reminder, Ron is just one of the dads who’s part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father, or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21stCenturyDads.org.
Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did. As you probably know, the 21st Century Dads Foundation is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content free to all concerned. Would you please consider making a tax-deductible contribution? I would really appreciate your support. Ron, thanks again.
Ron Sandison: Thanks so much for having me on your show.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs. Through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children match up with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support other dads. To find out more, go to 21stCenturyDads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we would be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com, groups, and search “dad to dad”. Lastly, we’re always looking to share interesting stories. If you’d like to share your story or know of a compelling story, please send an email to David@21stCenturyDads.org.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast was produced by me, Tom Couch.
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