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Living with Autism: Brant Hansen

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
October 2, 2023 5:15 am

Living with Autism: Brant Hansen

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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October 2, 2023 5:15 am

An autism diagnosis in his 30s rocked the world of radio host Brant Hansen. Brant gets real about the social and faith-related challenges of life on the spectrum—as well as practical ways to embrace anyone living with autism.

There wasn't a name for it. My mom just knew I was different. Actually, when I got diagnosed as an adult, it was explanatory to her, and she said, “Oh, that explains this. That explains that. That explains a lot of good things, like why you would compile information like you did about everything, and how you struggled with relationships; why you didn't date.” She always loved me, you know? I know that.-- Brant Hansen

Show Notes and Resources

Connect with Brant on Twitter @branthansen or on Facebook @branthansenpage.

Learn more Brant on his website:

Listen to Brant and Sherri's podcast: Brant and Sherri Oddcast

And grab his book, Blessed Are the Misfits: Great News for Believers who are Introverts, Spiritual Strugglers, or Just Feel Like They're Missing Something

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See resources from our past podcasts.

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There wasn't a name for it. My mom just knew I was different. And actually, when I got diagnosed as an adult, it was explanatory to her. And she's like, oh, that explains this, that explains that, that explains a lot of good things, like why you would compile information like you did about everything, and how you struggled with relationships, why you didn't date.

But she always loved me, you know, I know that. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. All right, let me read you a listener comment.

Actually, it was sent in to us. It said, Hello, I contacted Family Life a while back about wanting representation for autistic adults as I've never heard from a Christian autistic adult before. Being autistic myself, learning about Brant Hansen from your podcast has been such a huge encouragement to me. I just want to say thank you so much for having him on.

It means so much to me to be able to have someone I can finally relate to who is also a follower of Christ. What a great comment. And guess what? We got Brant Hansen back with us on Family Life Today. Welcome back, Brant.

Thank you. Did you even know we got that comment? I don't remember.

You don't remember writing that? No, that's really cool. And I noticed that too, for people who are believers and on the spectrum, there's not that much discussion, but just like the spectrum itself is people talk about it.

There's TV characters about it, there's movie characters, like, but in the church, I'm not sure we know what to do with it. So I am honored to welcome other people in and go, Hey, this is me too. You're a radio host, the Brant and Sherry Oddcast and author. We talked recently with you about Blessed are the Misfits, Unoffendable, The Men We Need. I could keep going. And even if you don't write a book, you're welcome to come back.

Thank you. But do you talk about it, this topic on your show? Because that's what we're going to dive into. I do because I get for the same reason. Because even if you're not on the spectrum, you might know somebody like your son, daughter or your cousin. Like, it's always good to move the fences out and welcome more people in and say, here's how I relate to God as somebody who's on the spectrum. Because it gives people hope. A lot of people who are on the spectrum leave the faith.

Because they can't relate to a lot of the way the church relates to them or doesn't relate to them. I do want to mention it for that reason. So talk about growing up. When did you know and how did it change your life? I knew I was different from the get go.

Which I talk about in the book, some of that. But my wife actually, when I was in my mid 30s, she's- So you had no idea before that? I didn't know what to label it. But you knew you were different? Absolutely.

Okay. Yeah, I just you don't know. But it has this great explanatory power in retrospect. And also, as soon as my mom found out about it, my wife found out about it to research me and my son.

And she's like, this is clearly what you were both dealing with. And I was glad to hear it. It was very helpful to know it for him. It was helpful for me just to know, even though I've changed over the years, and some things have gotten better, like socially, to look back and go, oh, that's what was going on. Do you wish you had known earlier?

I think so. What were some of the indicators? Struggling to relate to people socially. A lot of it's social. Picking up on cues, visual cues, body language.

I don't understand why people do what they do in a million ways. You're always like, what is this? Which gives you a really fresh way to observe. A lot of people are on the spectrum have some really interesting insights about human behavior, because a lot of people feel so they're swimming in that water. They don't notice it. But we can stand outside it and look at it and go, this is kind of silly, isn't it? Like, this is just funny. So some people who are stand up comedians are on the spectrum for that reason.

Because you observe and you see absurdity maybe when other people don't. But for me, like I didn't date. I didn't have any girlfriends in high school.

Because? I didn't know how to relate to girls or talk. I didn't know what to talk about.

I just didn't have anything to say. You have guy friends? Yeah. And I talk baseball statistics. I was obsessed with baseball statistics. I would compile them. I would do just strange games where you compile other statistics and put them in rows. And this was as a senior in high school, even like Friday night.

That's what I'm doing. Really? Using a typewriter to put everything in like perfect rows and computing and coming up with algorithms and whatnot. Did you do well in school? I did.

I was usually the top guy in the room when it came to just being a nerd. I mean, didn't you want to be a baseball commentator? I did. I wanted so bad. Well, I can't see very well either.

It dawned on me I can't see the balls. I'm going to do play by play. But yeah, that was it.

That's what I wanted to do. And so the weird thing is people are on the spectrum. A lot of times they do have a deep interest in something. And baseball statistics is not uncommon. Really?

Yes. What about your son? For him, it wasn't that. He was very into history and literature and like memorizing Chesterton epic poems and things like that or Beowulf. It's kind of a narrow interest, but it's fascinating. But it's hard to relate to other people that don't share that.

I don't know what to talk to girls about if they don't want to talk about Tim Raines batting average in 1983. I didn't. Okay, but you're married and you have two kids.

Yes. So that's my first and last girlfriend. I'm married to her. And what happened was we were on a missions trip in college and I met her and I didn't know what to talk about, but we got snowed in.

It was in Appalachia. We were with a group of people and we would play games, board games, because we were snowed in. So we were forced to interact. I bet you're really good at board games. I'm pretty good.

Nobody likes to celebratory dances. But still, the point is she liked me and I didn't know. She thought I was funny. She wasn't attracted other than that.

She was funny, smart guy. And then I was genuine and she had had enough of fake stuff. So we were best friends.

We would hang out. I didn't know how to do the romantic thing and I didn't really consider it a possibility. But I did have strong feelings for her and I did really like her. And we were studying one night together and I turned to her.

There was no romantic anything had happened. But I turned to her and interrupted and just said, I love you. And she was like, thanks? That's like out of nowhere.

Yeah. So that was our courting. And then that's how it came together. And we've been married 33 years and she's helped me tremendously. Like how to even with posture stuff, like how to stand up straight, how to walk straight up, because I would usually tip forward some. How to stand more naturally so people are at ease. So I'm not standing like a robot.

So she's helped me immensely over the years. So a lot of people now, they're like, well, you can't be on the spectrum. You're on the radio. But radio is perfect for somebody who enjoys words and doesn't have to read body language. And you're sort of introverted. So you're in a room.

Perfect. So I get to share what I think God's given me, whatever talents he's given me. I get to share that in a low leverage social situation. Same thing with even when I'm speaking, I do some speaking like in big churches or conferences or whatever. Well, that's different than small talk, isn't it? I've got ideas to share and things I want to say that I hope are a blessing to people. But I control the conversations on stage. I don't have to read everybody's body language or think what's the next thing about the weather I have to say.

It's a very different thing. But I think God's blessed it. It's helped me.

I think it makes for good radio. I'm blunt. And you're funny.

Thank you. You are really funny. Even every chapter I read, I laugh at something. Me too. It's profound and it's deep. That's what I was going to say.

You're also deep. Yeah. But I'm always like, hey, you got to read this because I'm laughing. That's funny. Is that common to someone on the spectrum?

Is that just Brian Hanson? I think we have quirky senses of humor as a general rule. And I also think a lot of people on the spectrum have a high quirk tolerance. I can hang out with people that other people find tough to hang out with because they're too this or that. Well, to me, I love it.

I love too this or that. I think it's fascinating. So I think a lot of people on the spectrum are that way.

Everybody loves an underdog, but I think a lot of us on the spectrum, we really go for something that's vulnerable. Like animals. A lot of us really connect with animals, especially when we're young. And anybody who's listening to this, they're nodding their head like, yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about.

Any vulnerable little things. You really feel it. More so than with a person in some respects?

Because you feel kind of powerless around people because you're not always sure what to say or understand the social thing. It's frustrating. Well, you mentioned earlier that faith can be a tough thing for somebody on the spectrum.

Why is that? Well, I think several reasons. But principally, we do tend to be analytical and ask a lot of questions. And it's tough when you don't get answers. It's tough when people can't relate to that.

That scares people sometimes in a faith environment. We ask why a lot. Like, why did we do it this way? Well, we just do, okay?

That's how we've always done it. It's difficult socially to function in a social environment sometimes when people think you're weird. If I don't respond like a normal person, then some people like, that guy's odd. Or he's arrogant or something. I was just thinking. I wasn't thinking anything negative. Or I give off a vibe of being angry when I'm not because I come across too blunt or something. Or I just look like I'm thinking too heavily. When I take a new job, like in a big place with a lot of other people around, I tell them, like the first meeting, hey, just so you know, I'm not mad at you. You say that.

Yes. So they can all laugh. And just please, you can like me. I give off the wrong vibe sometimes.

And I just want people to be at ease. So I've learned I have to do that because my body language is different. Did you have to help your son learn how to handle social situations?

Yes. But that's primarily my wife now. She also hired, very wisely, a psychologist who was a believer to help. And he was great at it. He really learned how to shake hands, make eye contact. To me, eye contact is, I just don't do it. I've learned to do it. So I'm doing it to you now, but I'm very conscious of it.

Act like a human, do the thing. But if you don't make eye contact with people, they implicitly think you're up to no good or you're not being honest. But I listen best when I look at the ground. Really?

Now, as I hear you say this, one of the thoughts I have is, I wish I had some of that because I think it would make you a better listener, husband, dad. Is that true at all? I think.

Carolyn loves it, probably. I'm sure they're saying so. This doesn't apply to everybody. But yes, it can be a real asset because I don't lie to her. What do you mean? I don't lie.

Because? I'm honest. My mom used to be like, be an honest person. He told me to be honest, but not that honest. So in other words, you're not a people pleaser.

Right. And I don't even think, I think you could just see it on my face. I can't. I see what you're saying. It's just not big temptation for me. So I don't want to say I never do because I can't know that for sure.

But it's just, I think that can be good for husbanding. I also do have compassion for her and for the kids and loyalty. She knows I won't flirt with other women.

Why? Well, because I'm true to her. But also, I can't flirt.

I can't flirt with her. She knows that. I don't do that. So I have to say things. But because it's true.

You look great. Well, thank you. It's a fact. You do.

I'm not flirting. It's just a fact. I'm saying the truth and I've learned I need to say that. So she's never said, because Ann will say, you're just saying that because you're my husband. I'm like, no, I really think that.

She knows you mean it. You would just say, no, it's a fact. So this is a reason to appreciate this friend that may be a little odd to you. You don't understand what's going on. Or a child.

Or a child. But that's a good friend to have. Yeah, it is. Because they're genuine.

They're not just saying stuff. Well, plus you said you appreciate quirky people. Yeah. And I thought, that's the heart of Jesus. I think that is. So that's one of the things that draws me to him. And that's one of the chapters I wrote in his book. Yeah, you said because of being on the spectrum, you're drawn to Jesus.

Yes. So a lot of people do lose connection with church or with faith who are on the spectrum because they don't feel comfortable there. Or they have questions that aren't answered.

They don't get it. I understand that. I'm drawn to Jesus himself. That's why I'm in this whole Christianity thing. It's not for the T-shirts.

It's not for the Christian movies. They're great. But that's not it. It's him. But that's one of his things is his own acknowledgement of the underdog and turning things upside down where the last are first and the first are last. I love that.

Me too. Yeah. So it's not just people on the spectrum. There's certain things about Jesus, though, that just speak to my... We all want the underdog.

We do. Yeah. Yeah, but you felt you're the underdog for a lot of your life.

And we're just rooting for the vulnerable. I'm telling you, there's a special thing for little people, little animals. And I see that with Jesus. And I love that. And again, he says, if you see me, you've seen the Father. Well, if that's what God's like, that speaks to my aspy soul, I call it, for Asperger's syndrome, whatever you used to call it. But being on the spectrum, that just speaks to me.

Other things about Jesus, I love how he flips the hierarchy over. He doesn't do this thing where, oh, you're a very important person. I'm going to act this way around you. And then somebody who's not important, I'm going to act this way around you.

He doesn't do that at all. You mentioned Asperger's. What's the difference between autism and Asperger's? Well, Asperger's used to be in the diagnostic manual for...

It's a high functioning autism, mainly men, mainly boys, but also women. It's really tough for girls, young girls, because of all the social cues that women are attuned to. And how, if you're not doing that right, how judgmental people can be.

So that can be heartbreaking. But again, I love that Jesus is the same to everybody. Because it bothers me, maybe more than usual, maybe not, I don't know. I do think it bothers us when we see that hypocrisy of, oh, the important people. Like, no, that's not how it's supposed to be.

And look, again, if that's God, that's awesome news that he would treat people that way. The other thing, when we're called aliens and strangers as believers, like if we're followers of Jesus, we're supposed to be aliens to this world. I already feel like an alien to this world. There's a Facebook group called Wrong Planet. And it's just for people on the spectrum where you feel like, am I from another planet?

Like, I don't understand what's going on here. You really do feel that way. So for me, being outside the mainstream culture and being different, it's like, well, I get that. I don't have a problem with that. I can do it.

Another reason I'm drawn to him, and I outline these in the book, but I love how blunt he is. Right? Yeah. To the highest of that day. Yeah. Pilot.

The Pharisees. Yeah. That's so refreshing in a world that is all about spin and image management. It's all about image management. It's constantly. And to have someone speak that bluntly, that plainly, is wonderful.

He doesn't let people get away with their religious, moralistic idea that they're good people. Yeah. To put on a show. Yeah. I love that, too. Yeah. Because if you're analytical and skeptical, it's like, everybody thinks they're a good person, but we're not. We can see that.

So he doesn't put up with that. Yeah. Well, how could churches be better in terms of reaching and identifying with someone on the spectrum? Because I'm guessing now we don't even think about that, do we, in the churches today?

Not that I know of. Most. But I've had a lot of people ask me this question, like, can I find a group in my home?

Because I'm syndicated, right? So they'll hear me talking about this. Like, I don't know of a group in your town. I wish there was. You may want to start one. Yeah. And I think a church who is really thinking would say, okay, let's start with a middle school group for people who are on the spectrum. You will get people from far away driving to your church who aren't even believers. Really?

You want to be somewhere where people don't think you're weird. You know how heartbroken you are as a parent when your kids struggle socially? And they want friends and they come home crying because they thought they had friends, but it turns out they're just people that make fun of them. And they still think they're friends. That's the other thing for me, too.

We get easily fooled because we're being genuine. And so it's hard to feel that. Wait a second. They're not my friend. Oh, it hurts. It really hurts when your kids go through it.

So if you do something like that, where you have a place you can go, people will beat the door down. Did you have people that you thought were friends? Oh, yeah. Oh, totally.

Yeah. It's a very common, heartbreaking story. Because again, in your book, if you say something, you meant it. Why would somebody say that if they didn't mean it? I don't understand. He said we're getting together on Saturday. He said it two months ago that we're going to go swim in on July, whatever. And you wouldn't forget. So I'm showing up. Why did he say that? That's the level that we're operating on.

And it's not a bad level. Right. Did your parents see this, treat you any differently? Did you feel loved? Did you feel not?

There wasn't a name for it. My mom just knew I was different. And actually, when I got diagnosed as an adult, it was explanatory to her. And she was like, oh, that explains this, that explains that, that explains a lot of good things. Yeah, yeah. Like why you would compile information like you did about everything and how you struggled with relationships, why you didn't date.

She always loved me. You know, I know that. But it would have been wonderful if there was a church that was like, we're getting people together. People who are not believers will come into that.

People from all the other churches will come to that. Start it. If you're not an expert on this, it's okay. Learn on the fly.

That's right. But do it. And then have this high tolerance because that group of kids is going to be fascinating, hilarious, fun, super honest. They're going to ask questions you never thought of in your entire life. You're going to love it. And they're going to be loved being loved.

They're going to love it. So you don't have to be perfect at it. You don't have to have a doctorate in this.

You don't have to be a licensed clinical, whatever. It's like just be somebody who likes these people. My son was in a group in college. What kind of group?

What would they do in the group? Are you talking about going through the Bible? You could do Bible study.

Yeah. Yeah, you could do Bible study. But then you'll learn what works and what doesn't and how, you know, attention spans and how deep we can go and who wants to dominate conversation and who doesn't.

You want to learn on the fly how to do it. But what was fascinating, my son was part of the group. It was a college age group.

It wasn't a Christian group. But we read about it in the paper. We're like, he wants to go. So we get there's tons of college kids there. These are all people who are different socially and really cool but different. And I overheard one of the conversations got really animated.

Some people were quiet. It takes a while. Really animated. They were talking about the paint on the Hindenburg. Really? Yeah. I'm like, I love this group. Yes. Anybody who's like fascinated with stuff.

Yeah. Because they all have these deep interests. Because you're like, how would you know this? Of course you would know it. And they're passionate about it.

So it's me. I hit on certain things like World War I. I know stuff about World War I. Nobody else cares like I do.

But if I find someone who does, we're off to the races. Right? So I like words. I collect words. I like etymology. I like linguistics. I like all that stuff. So I can say these things.

But it's a lot of stuff. It's just people who are quiet and they're on the spectrum. They're into math.

But they're like, yes, that's me. Same thing. Wow. Could a parent of a child that's on the spectrum, could they lead a group like that or at least gather them together?

Yes. That's how this one formed I was talking about with my son. It was the guy's mom. And it turns out this guy, her son was really into music, really into playing guitar.

You can name any pop song you start playing. I like you, Dave. So if you met some kid like that who doesn't have a lot of friends, but like, holy smokes, he's an encyclopedia.

He can play guitar. Like, we did that. We had a blast. Yeah, you would be fascinated by that. Yeah. Yeah.

So you wouldn't know if you just avoid awkward people. It's starting this all across the country would be a brilliant thing. There's a huge niche for it that needs to be filled. And it teaches us. And there's more and more kids being diagnosed. There's more and more people who are struggling socially anyway.

So, again, we have an expert culture. So we defer to X, Y, I don't know everything about that. Just do it. Just learn from love. Learn the hard way. There's gonna be awkward stuff. You're gonna do stuff like, okay, that didn't work. That's okay.

But my goodness, people are dying for this stuff. I've been in ministry a long time with women. And there was this one situation where there were three women that people were, I could tell they were kind of running from them.

There was an awkwardness in the conversations. And so my friend and I said, let's pray about these three women. We ended up praying like, Lord, what do you want us to know about? Like, how can we minister to these women?

Because it felt like they were pushing people away in some circumstances. And as I went to prayer, I'm like, Lord, what do you think of them? This thought came to my mind. I felt like it was from God. Aren't they delightful? I started to cry because I thought, of course, that's what you would say, God. They are delightful to you. And you see the beauty in who they are. You're celebrating how you've created them. And I think that if we would just take some time to say, God, what do you want us to know? What do you want us to do? We would find that God delights in the misfits.

That's right. And on a personal level, I talked about my wife and I, how we met. She's really glad that she took the time to get to know me. She thinks I'm a really good husband. We think you're pretty great, too. She says an example.

You don't know. She could have been like, he's a little odd. But having a high quirk tolerance, these people are delightful. It's wonderful. It's so sweet, too. You know when I had a coworker say something one time, which is, it's going to sound strange.

Like, why was that moving to you? But there's three of us on a morning show and the guy talked to this coworker minus this lady. He's like, what's the deal with Brant this morning? And I don't even know what I was doing.

I didn't have a problem. I just looked too intense or I said something too bluntly on accident. She's like, that's just Brant. And when I heard that, she had said that.

Now, that sounds insulting or something. It was like, thank you. Just be my friend. It's so much energy to try to be normal. And if you can be yourself and somebody can have a little bit of tolerance for a quirk and they're like, that's Brant.

We love him. Thank you. It makes me feel comfortable. And you don't have to be on the spectrum. You can just be a little odd in whatever way, whatever wonderful way to experience and know what I'm talking about. The relief of that. No more.

It's so exhausting to try to do normal stuff. And boy, when a parent says that to his son or daughter. Yes. That's a word of life. I love my son and daughter. That's who they are. And that's beautiful. Tolerance for a quirk.

Man, I love that. You know, for anyone who wrestles with trying to be quote unquote normal, it's so freeing to know that God loves you. And today's conversation helps all of us to know how to better love anyone in their life who might feel like an outsider or just have a little quirk.

I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Brant Hansen on Family Life Today. We're going to hear more from Brant Hansen here in just a second. But first, Brant has written a book called Blessed Are the Misfits. This is a book for believers who are introverts, spiritual strugglers, or just feel like they're missing something or, you know, someone who would fall into any of those categories. If you feel like you don't relate to God as emotionally or feel his presence as intensely, this book is going to help you discover that there's not necessarily anything wrong with you.

It's going to help you normalize those experiences if you've ever felt like you're on the outside. So this book that Brant has written is going to be our gift to you when you partner with us financially. You can go online to or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. And feel free to drop us something in the mail.

Our address is Family Life, 100 Lakehart Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32832. All right, here's Brant Hansen with some encouragement for those who are on the spectrum or know someone who is. There was a doctor who made diagnoses. I remember I can't remember who it was, but it's one book about Asperger's back when we use that term.

He said when he make the diagnosis, he would tell teenagers or whatever, congratulations. You have Asperger's. Wow. I embody that like in my life. Like I like it.

I like it. I like people who are on the spectrum. I'm biased.

You're more interesting than normal people that just try like doing all the same stuff. I just I'm biased. But congratulations. The Lord is good. That's good for parents to hear to have kids that are there. Yeah. Congratulations. Congratulations. You are ready for it. You're going to go through some heartbreak. You're going to go through some awesome stuff.

You can be so thankful that you have that kid. Tomorrow, David Wilson are back with Brant Hansen to talk about parenting kids on the spectrum. That's tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of David Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-02 07:36:40 / 2023-10-02 07:49:42 / 13

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