Read below for a guest post from Ron Sandison.
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31
Erik Weber’s development appeared typical until he reached 2 ½ years and experienced a high fever and began to regress rapidly. At that time Erik’s mother, Sandi, noticed he ceased to respond to her voice and failed to maintain proper eye contact. Afraid she was losing her son, Sandi had Erik tested. Neurological specialists diagnosed her beautiful, brown eyed, 3-year-old as autistic with mental retardation. When Erik was 5, doctors warned his parents his autism was so severe that he probably would not progress past the cognitive level of an 18-month old child and recommended he should be institutionalized.
Sandi was determined to empower her son to overcome his disabilities. Erik stated, “My mom prayed continually for God’s guidance for my life. A teaching method she implemented was videotaping my behavior and playing it back to me because I was a visual learner.” Erik’s special interests as a child were Thomas the Train and NASCAR racing, and his mom used these interests to help him in his language development and social skills.
Sandi encourages parents with a special-needs child, “Grieve the loss of the perfect child so that you can embrace the child that you have and maximize whatever his or her potential will be.”
Erik began to speak at age 7 and had dysgraphia—extreme difficulty with handwriting. He also had tactile sensory issues and hated to be touched. When he received a shot at the doctor’s office Erik would scream, “Ouch, ouch, ouch!” before the needle pricked his skin.
Sandi decided to keep Erik in preschool for a few extra years because he had developed a friendship with Ciara, the daughter of one of his preschool teachers. Erik shares, “Mom believed Ciara was the only person who would be able to help me start to talk since she was able to involve me in activities I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.” Ciara and Erik still share a close bond. She graduated from college with a degree in occupational therapy so she can help children with special needs.
After Erik’s dad died in 1998, Sandi had Erik compete in the Special Olympics because she wanted her son to have positive role models and develop self-esteem. Special Olympics provided an environment for Erik to develop friendships, confidence, and physical/mental endurance—years later these final two qualities were instrumental in his passing the California Bar Exam.
Erik shared, “I currently have won 111 Special Olympic medals. I hope to achieve over 200, and then be a Special Olympic track and field coach. My personal best 5K-race is 18 minutes.”
Sandi encouraged Erik’s faith in Christ, and as a young child he gave his heart to Jesus. Erik recalled one defining moment in his faith, “As a young child my mom would play the song All We like Sheep, and I would sing along—praising Jesus.”
Sandi’s prayers were answered by Ciara who encouraged Erik to express himself with language and helping him to be freed from his isolated world. From 3rd grade through high school, Erik attended Excelsior Academy—a private school designed to help children with disabilities achieve independence and success. By seventh grade, Erik was so advanced in his academics that he skipped eighth grade and was able to graduate from high school a year earlier in 2006.
Erik was able to develop social skills by his savant ability to memorize and quote famous comedians, even perfectly mimicking their voices and mannerisms. Some of Erik’s favorites include Kevin Heart, Will Ferrell, Robin Williams, and Steve Harvey. Erik shared, “While in college, for an icebreaker in meeting girls, I’d ask, “Who’s your favorite comedian?” After the girl replied, I would proceed to impersonate her favorite comedian.”
In 2009, Erik earned a Bachelor’s Degree in International Development Studies with a 3.9 GPA from Point Loma Nazarene University. Next, he acquired from San Diego State University a Master’s Degree in Public Administration with a 3.7 GPA.
When NBC San Diego interviewed Eric about being accepted to law school, he responded, “People call me the trailblazer, the icon, but I’m an ordinary person doing extraordinary things.”
In May, he became the first Cal Western School of Law student with autism to pass the California Bar Exam, passing it on his first try.
Erik declares, “God is using me as an example of what people with special needs can do. I hope to practice special education law so I can help others like me to find their voice and pursue their potential.”
As Jeremiah 22:16 says,
“He defended the cause of the poor and needy and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me? Declares the Lord.”
Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of America. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and Charisma House is publishing his book on 4/5/16, A Concise Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom. He has over 10,000 Scriptures memorized including 22 complete books of the New Testament. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with their pet rabbit, Babs, and cat, Frishma. You can contact Ron on Facebook or email him.