A few nights ago we watched a movie entitled “Loving Lampposts, Living Autistic”. I did not want to like this movie. For one thing I do not say autistic, it bugs me and it’s offensive. Secondly, in one of the teasers for the movie it showed Jenny McCarthy. I was totally a fan of hers when she was a playboy centerfold/comedienne. Not a fan as a mom. I am not convinced her child had/has autism and her focus on rescuing our kids or focusing on recovery is bullshit. Only good thing I can say is she did raise some awareness. Surprisingly enough, I did really like the movie. One of the things I can never get enough of is hearing from adults with autism. I am a big Donna Williams fan (40 something australian woman who did not speak until she was 9 and now has written tons of books and lectures all over the world). These people can help parents understand a lot of what is happening with our kids and unlock some of the mystery. It reminds you that no matter what is going on on the outside, the inside is filled up with brains, thoughts, emotions. People always ask us, do you think Bryan knows blah blah blah. He knows!!!!
While most of the movies, books ,etc., on autism do not really give us any new “information” they give perspective. I try to take a tidbit from everything I read and see. What I loved about this movie was really three things:
1. Acceptance doesn’t mean you’ve “given up”. I agree with this so much I cannot truly express it in words. I think this feeling for me came over time. It wasn’t so much about acceptance of autism but rather acceptance of Bryan. He is who he is and he’s a wonderful boy. He does not have to learn in a classroom with 20 other kids to be smart or to learn math. He learns how he learns and at the end of the day, if he gets the knowledge that’s what counts. We don’t have to chase down every suggestion, every new treatment to be trying to help him. It’s a learning process.
2. Learn to relate to your child in the way that works best for them, not you. This is a big lesson. If your kid likes to play video games, play video games with him. Don’t expect him to always want to read a book or engage in conversation that is so tough for him. It’s ok to sit together and not talk and just “be” together. It is important to help navigate the world in which he is forced to live, but we do need to always try and live in his world too.
3. What the heck does high functioning or low functioning mean, and on whose scale? This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I love when people ask, is he high functioning? Hmm, let me see what the heck that is. Can he tie his shoes, yes, can he shower, get dressed, make his bed, take a bowl of cereal, yes. Can he carry on a conversation for 15 mins, no. Ok so what the hell. And just so you know, I have hardly ever heard a parent say, my kid is low functioning. Why do this and make yourself feel like crap. Every kid, autism or not, does some things well and others, not so much. Can you imagine someone saying about your typical kid, hey is he smart or dumb? Labels suck!
What I loved so much about the movie was listening to these adults with autism, some speaking, some using a speech assistance device and some just typing, saying that they all wanted to help people understand autism. One man who has autism teaches kids with autism how to play piano. This is amazing. Hopefully when a lot of our kids get older they will be able to teach kids with autism many different things in a way that will truly be effective. Sooo thought-provoking. I can only imagine how great it would be to have a teacher with autism teaching kids with autism. It will happen one day soon and it will be revolutionary.