One day, Neb, age 7, and I had a heart to heart, about what it means to be responsible and a good person.
At the end, he turned to me and said: “Thanks, Mom”.
I said: “For what?”
His innocent response: “For teaching me things that I am supposed to remember when my body is bigger. I might forget, don’t get mad; just remind me, okay?”
I didn’t realize at first how insightful this comment really was. This little boy understood that his deficits would hinder his ability to recall in an instant, certain life lessons that he needed to remember. And, he trusted me to keep him on track. So I began to ponder, how the world around him could help him make good decisions in difficult situations.
As a parent, I watch movies such as “Temple Grandin”, “The Black Balloon”, and “Fly Away” for inspiration. I watch them when I am feeling at a loss for the next step. I do not look to them to find a specific route, but rather a thought process, to help formulate a plan of action. Today, Temple Grandin is my favorite movie to watch. I have watched this movie, easily, a dozen times. I love the tenacity of Ms. Grandin, and the raw emotion the actor conveys that shows the true crux of the anxiety our children feel.
When my child was first diagnosed, I looked to the movie for inspiration. It is a story of triumph to the naysayers, a story that showed me what he could become. Now, it is a favorite for a different reason; a reason that are moderately vague in the script. The tag line for the movie is:
“Autism gave her a vision. She gave it a voice.” (Danes, 2010).
This woman overcame so much. Not only the struggles that can come with Autism, but she was introduced to an educational system that was not ready for her, sexism in her field of study, extreme ridicule and yet, she forged a trail in a terrain that was not yet known. And, she was successful.
Why? The one thing that stands out in my mind is that she had people throughout her life that took a special interest in her. Those people included: her mother, her aunt, her teacher and college professor, the newspaper editor and even the stranger at the grocery store. All of these people, helped create an environment where she could thrive. This environment enveloped her in a veil of safety and trust, to allow her to progress and achieve.
My favorite quote of the movie is “A door opened, and I went through it” (Danes, 2010).
We need to open doors for our children and young adults. We need to help them develop networks of people that can help them succeed in life. We need to help them develop skills that will allow them to know who those people may be in the future. We need to help them understand what it means to trust, and teach them how to trust the right individuals that may enter their lives. We need to remind them how to be responsible when the moment of contextual reasoning may overwhelm them.
We need to develop life-long strategies for them to be able to flourish.