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Micah Butler: An Unimposing King, an Unconditional Love

Micah Butler, who has ASD, was elected prom king for his high school this year for one reason -- his classmates love him.
Standing 5-foot-5 and tipping the scales at around 110 pounds, senior Micah Butler is not an imposing figure. He’s not athletically built or gifted. He doesn’t have movie-star good looks or the telltale bankroll that might otherwise draw people into his circle. And forget about being a smooth or commanding communicator. In other words, at first glance, Micah Butler doesn't seem to have whatever it is that makes a high school student popular and admired.

Instead, Micah has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). He is cognitively impaired, has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), struggles to communicate complete thoughts, and has a number of physical coordination challenges that would seem to make him easy to dismiss — easier to forget.

Just don’t tell that to his fellow 2019 classmates at Siloam Springs High School. These Arkansas seniors have a vastly different opinion when it comes to Micah Butler. On April 13, the class elected Micah to be their prom king. To them, Micah is anything but forgettable. Although he may not be a star athlete or gifted student, he’s epitomizes what many hope one day to be.

“Micah loves God and loves his neighbor better than pretty much anybody I know,” says Joe Butler, Micah’s father. “He loves his classmates and cares for them and they loved him back by giving him this honor.”

“He truly loves everyone, regardless of who they are or their outward appearance,” agrees Megan Jackson, a junior and Micah’s prom date. “He’s unapologetically himself. He doesn’t care about what others’ opinions are, and that’s refreshing.”

Megan, who is on The Assembly’s worship team, where the Butlers also attend, says she has gotten to know Micah over the past three years and he’s become one of her best friends.

“I don’t see him as someone who has disabilities,” she says. “He simply makes the most of his life from where he is — always encouraging other people and always making them smile.”

But what makes the response to Micah’s love and caring at the school even more impacting is that he is not highly verbal. Sentences are typically short and at times cryptic — sometimes only having meaning to himself and perhaps family members. However, that doesn’t stop his love for others from beaming through. Teachers and students have no problems interpreting his actions, facial expressions, and innocent joy in his eyes as nothing short of expressions of unconditional love.

Even though he’s not verbally proficient, Micah has become well known for cheering from the sidelines for the school teams and giving high-fives wherever he goes — including at prom. And earlier in the school year, his support of his classmates led to him being named an honorary member of the football team and he was invited to run out of the tunnel with the coach and the team for the homecoming game.

“He doesn’t have the inhibitions that typical 18-year-olds have,” Joe explains. “He has no cares or worries, he feels no peer pressure. He loves others and put others before himself — he’s always just who he is. This story is one of how love overcomes so many obstacles and speaks louder than words.”

However, having ASD means that Micah can have reactions to things such as noise, large crowds, surprises, and even attention that causes him to seek solitude or somehow reduce the “sensory input” he’s receiving. Joe, a U.S. missionary with Intercultural Ministries, smiles as he recalls how when Micah was announced as king, everyone cheered and he was excited, but then the spotlight was on turned on him. “That threw him off, so some of the other students helped him out and stood in for him for the king-queen dance,” Joe says.

Joe and his wife, Jen, who are the co-founders of Ability Tree — a multisite ministry geared toward meeting the needs of children with autism and other disabilities and the needs of their families — note that God has been working in Micah’s life this past year, beginning with a first-time trip to church camp.

“Since camp, Micah has grown in his relationships with his peers in youth group and has become a regular part of Life group on Wednesday and Sunday nights,” Joe says. “He continues to worship and pray throughout the day . . . he now goes up to his room and closes the door, and we can hear him preaching and praying — sometimes in the Spirit.”

Megan, who mentions that Micah can often be seen praying for people at the altar at the conclusion of services, says that he has helped her grow as a person. “I would just encourage people to be intentional about creating relationships with the people around them, whoever they are — don’t make judgements about people, just get to know them.”

Micah wholeheartedly agrees — high five!

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.