Autism through the Movie, “Home”
Let’s unpack autism in the family and use the movie, “Home”. As I uncomfortably watch this DreamWorks movie, the parallel to our family is stifling. The struggle is real and I’ve decided to come clean with our family life on the Spectrum and the varying degrees of life for millions of other autism moms around the globe.
Autism is a label that equates to catching water in your hands. It’s very non-structured and bits “caught” in many ways. There are certainly some identifiable neurological and social similarities. However, autism is like having a lot of chronic illnesses wrapped up in the body of a little child with each child expressing differently. Oddly, a forgetful elder has dementia but when a precious child is forgetful or unsocial, we call it autism. Although I acknowledge the studies on autism, this is about a real, family life perspective on autism. Clearly, the social aspect is a challenge for most and yet each family feels awkward and isolated. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see kids with autism anymore and I wish to help all families understand the complete re-work necessary within the family structure to work as best possible.
The Former Life
My husband and I were very involved with our community. But when our son was born with a heart hole and other complications, we pulled back for his safety. Of course, we vaccinated on schedule with warnings from our friend and Pediatrician that we needed to move forward to ensure he did not get sick with his condition. Unfortunately, at 3-years-old his body was not strong enough to process the additives, chemicals, or trace amounts of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella strains synthesized in a vaccine. That’s the day we lost our son to autism. Just like millions of others, he was looking in our eyes, laughing, healing, and communicating. Within 24 hours, his fever escalated, we gave Tylenol, and our son began living in his own world. He could not look at us anymore. At this moment in time, we have three children, three-years-old and under.
One debilitating consequence to autism is isolation. It’s not possible to participate in the typical toddler activities because the child care facility always says, “I’m so sorry, we can’t manage this child.” Sometimes a kid gets kicked in the nose, or your child wanders away from the class or he climbs under the table and disrupts order. Joining a bible study, mommy group or kids camp is wishful thinking.
For 8 years, we get to hear other people say, “Ohhh” when we show up. Even when visiting family, our arrival is welcome, but the “Ohhh” is present. It’s an audible “sigh” of having to accommodate a special kid that isn’t easy or understanding of social norms. Therefore, whether it is a social gathering or a play date; it just never works. Eventually, we just don’t get invited. Honestly, it was tough on me, but I never knew if he was aware; everyone asks if he has autism and people just feel the need to tell you something is wrong with your child. As if you had NO IDEA! He exists in a world, unscathed by the social un-acceptance our society offers for those who fit outside the walls of “normal”. But a surprise is on the horizon…
A Quest to Heal
My quest to heal becomes obsessive. The options are not friendly, so I gave it all. It is hard to tell if we have 100% recovery because each child (and person) has a uniqueness. There is definitely recovery though, and I do not miss some things. Gone are the struggles searching the neighborhood for my wandering child, or being investigated by the Child Protective Services because he was lost several times.
Clearly, having my son communicate and look in my eyes is rewarding. Being behind in school is challenging but welcoming at this stage. There is so much money spent trying to recover a child on the spectrum! With our limited budget and circumstances, I had to find a way to do this without going broke. Food is our way. After success with a lot of kids, I wrote a cookbook with achievable recipes, encouragement, and research to show how significant healing is with a good diet; “Real Food Recovery“.
Despite all of this, I always wonder what he remembers of the past. As we approach an interview, I discover that in our great recovery, our child remembers a whole bunch and it breaks my heart.
Today my goal is to encourage you in a different way. The food recovery is huge, however, the accolades and acknowledgments are equally important. In my quest to help my son by providing instruction and structure to; stand up straight, look in the eyes, say “goodbye”, shake his hand, and other more corrective commands, I must have had a gap on encouragements. Let me share how this discovery moves us and hopefully inspires you to do better.
Yesterday we visited a Special Ed teacher, with a website called, Special Books by Special Kids.
Although we were private with the issues we faced; we also protected him from all the negative comments for his life from the myriad of doctors, family, and friends. I believed he would improve and I refuse to accept the prognosis. As a Nutritional Therapist, I’ve witnessed miracles with collaboration and a great team.
Now as filming and the interview begins, my son’s responses trouble me because they are disingenuous. I didn’t want to say anything to embarrass my son but he wasn’t answering the questions or talking about himself or me honestly.
Honesty is important and silence is acceptable if it is private. But my son’s interview is make-believe and I just went along pondering why he didn’t share his amazing story.
Inside My Son’s Heart
As we leave and enter the car, my son shares his heart. I express my disappointment that he was dishonest. Then a truth comes out with tears, my 16-year-old son is insecure inside by how everyone treats him. “People don’t like me”, he says, and so he tells stories about the people around him.
Even though I protect him, quit my job, home school, praise, and push him (probably too hard) towards greatness; these insecurities exist within him.
It breaks my heart to hear the conversation AFTER the interview when we enter the car. As a reference, the last time I cried this hard was when we discovered our foster son had a really bad cancer called neuroblastoma. So in this vulnerable place, I want to share some considerations we missed in him.
Although Chris is deleting our film footage, I want to share the good stuff we learn in this experience. Hopefully, you get some insights too and when you don’t think your child understands, reconsider.
My son told me that he didn’t like doing the interview. He said he wasn’t completely honest because people don’t like the truth and he would be teased. Instead, he bragged and elaborated about his brothers, sister, and cousins.
This sweet boy sitting beside me is really mad. He is so intuitive and spiritual and now I’m getting an earful of how he is upset with me for asking him to do this interview. Making-up stories is a protective way to prevent exposing himself or his Mom to insults. [If only you could see how far he has come to even say this!] He didn’t want anyone to say, “Ohhh!” with that great big sigh and rolling eyes.
For the remainder of our day, we discuss how this child impacts and deepens our family. Today and hopefully many other days, we will NOT acknowledge how our lives are hijacked by a potentially preventable condition. We will spend time showing the little miracles my boy gives us:
- We have abundant artwork for our walls.
- His younger siblings are welcomed into the world with dancing and singing since he arrived first.
- This Mama couldn’t have sung at Papa’s funeral had he not walked up to come hold me (most people just look and are afraid to help).
- Creative games occur because this precious soul graces us.
- Our family might get caught up in gossiping about petty things; like little league parent fighting over kids, but we missed the silly stuff!
- The Pediatric Oncology floor and all the cancer patients would not have laughed, sang, and had so much fun without him inspiring us to dance while we fight cancer with our foster-to-adopt son.
The blessings our family has because of his life would fill a book, but he sees the rolled eyes, and how society wants him to fit a mold of “normality” that is too mundane or even possible.
With a growing number of autistic children, let’s come together and solve this crisis. But in the interim of healing and changing our system, we are learning to praise and acknowledge the talents and gifts of our kids on the autism spectrum.
We must be courageous, dance, find ways to encourage, and praise the unique!
At the end of the movie “Home”, Oh, was able to look through his unique eyes and solve the problem. It is a beautiful ending and I certainly know our kids can do the same. We just need to believe and listen to what they are telling us and never give up.