Is There a Connection Between Autism and the Spiritual World?
It doesn't really matter, for Stillman's purposes, whether a person with autism has (or has appeared to) experienced ESP, communication with animals, voices of the dead, or divine communication. The overall point is that those things which stand outside our daily experience are far more available to those with autism than they are to the neurotypical person. Just as importantly, Stillman asserts, people with autism are more open, more empathetic and more compassionate than other people. In short, he says, "The world needs autism."
Does this idea hold water? Like any exploration of the divine or paranormal, the answer depends entirely upon the predisposition of the person reading the book. Some will dismiss it entirely; others will find that it strikes a chord with their experience.
Messages From Whom?
In many cases, since the person with autism is non-verbal, Stillman uses a controversial technique called Facilitated Communication (FC) to gather their thoughts. FC involves placing the hands of the person with autism on a keyboard, and then "supporting" their arms as they type. While some people feel that FC has provided non-verbal people with a key to communication, others believe that the supporting facilitators - and not the people with autism - are behind the messages typed.
Separating the Unusual from the Extraordinary
Does this make him an especially spiritual person?
Tom seems to have an unusual ability: He "sees" musical notes as the colors of the light spectrum. He also has perfect pitch. Do these qualities mean something?
When left to my own devices, I think these things mean nothing at all. At most, I feel, they mean that Tom is musically gifted, and a lover of the arts. When I read Bill's work, though, I can't help but wonder: Are those special moments and connections significant?
Communicating with Those Who Have Gone Before
While Bill provides potential reasons for such strange and wonderful connections, I can't help but feel that his desire to see autism as something extraordinary may be coloring his observations. After all, in the world of the spiritual, seeing should never be believing. It's far too easy to pull the wool over the eyes of those who want to believe.