Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Autism the Musical

I finally had the pleasure of watching Autism the Musical the other night. I have had many people ask me if I'd seen it yet. Each person who asked me about it wanted "my thoughts" on the documentary. I'm sure it's because the documentary is pulled right from our lives, except for the fact that Daniel isn't in a musical, yet.

I'll start by saying I know each one of those kids. Not personally, but I mean I have known a kid very similar to each of those 11 kids from the movie. I have been around a lot of kids with autism. A LOT. There is one thing that is for sure. Just like all kids, everyone is different, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. While I found these kids interesting I wasn't very focused on them at all. Partially because there was never any doubt in my mind that they could pull off the musical. I knew they could. I heard some reviews of people who were amazed it could be done. I wasn't amazed by that. All that the kids need is a leader and someone with the patience, (there is that word again!) and the know how to get something like that done. Would some wonderful artsy person from East Lansing put together a production, please? Daniel would be first in line!!!! Man that kid loves to perform!

Anyway, what I was focused on was the parents. First of all, kudos to them for putting themselves out there for us all to see. At times it was raw. At least to me. It struck a few nerves. First of all the marriages that were disintegrating before our eyes. I read somewhere once that over 90% of marriages end in divorce in these situations. That statistic is nearly as shocking as 1 in 150 being diagnosed with autism! This doc. pretty much showed that. The men and women were so far apart that you could see how they wouldn't be able to find each other again. Mostly, they didn't. Some broke up during the filming and my bet is some of the parents have since divorced. I found the parents reactions from retreating into a depression, to becoming the angry mom who fights all the time very very real. Which one am I? It made me wonder. I think that at times I have been every parent in that documentary. I heard many times the word "crazy" come up. As in Dr's think your crazy, school districts, teachers etc at some point, all think your crazy. Been there on all of it. But the moms are thinking, "I have to do this, I have to do whatever it takes to help my child". Somehow I feel they are judged by this. We are all judged. But my question is, if they don't do it, who will?

I had a soft spot for Lexi. She is 14 in the doc, she sings like an angel. AN ANGEL. She is very echoalic. So is my Daniel. If you don't know what that means, someone says, "it's snowing outside", they say back "it's snowing outside". She imitates people, perfectly. So can Daniel. He can do any voice and have you down pat. It's amazing. He echos videos, books, computer games, constantly. Every single thing is stored away in that brain. Every single syllable. Amazing. He seems to be much more able to converse than Lexi is, but that's hard to know from what I saw. And she is HAPPY. That's what I think of Daniel. Happy. It's the kids who land more near Aspergers that I think have a harder time, as I think you see in the film. It's the bullying, the almost being able to fit in, but not quite. They are just close enough, that they get pushed away because that small amount separates them too much. Like they say, that last step, it's a doozy! That breaks my heart, because they so desperately want to fit in. I loved how "Coach E" wrote the musical based on what they wanted. Wyatt, for instance, talked a lot about bullying, so it became part of the show. With a song called "Sensitive" as his solo. That was awesome and inspiring.

Kids like Neal I find very interesting. How they can't verbalize at all, yet he can type out very deep thoughts and questions. Fascinating. Maybe it's fascinating because it's almost the opposite of Daniel who talks, almost, constantly but has a very difficult time pulling together his own thoughts. I loved Henry. The dinosaur loving son of Stills from Crosby, Stills and Nash. He knows everything about dinosaurs. That's almost an autism cliche!!!

The thing that I most recognized with the kids in the film and my own is, did anyone else notice how they seemed "normal" in the beginning? The use of home movies of these kids as toddlers was brilliant. Lexi and Neal I thought, had good eye contact, they smiled, interacted. Daniel had the same thing. That is what is so frustrating. You had them. They were there in front of you smiling their beautiful smiles at you. Not only with their mouths, but with their EYES. The light was there in their eyes. Then one day it's gone. It goes out. Then the tantrums start, then the withdrawing into themselves starts. The Dr's say "don't worry, it'll pass". "They are manipulating you, they are 2 they are 3". Whatever. You know it isn't true. You know they are gone. But you don't know where or why. Maybe that's why us moms "get crazy". We saw them there, right before our eyes and we lost them. So we think, if we just try hard enough, they'll come back to us. Daniel has that twinkle back in his eyes, sometimes. It isn't always there. Sometimes he is in his own world. Wyatt has a wonderful dialog about this in the film. But when he comes out. What a joy is had!

If I did it right this should be a link to a trailer of the movie. Somehow, rent it if you haven't seen it!

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