Saturday, December 15, 2012

Real Inclusion

We hit a milestone today.  My little man attended his first movie at the theatre.  This my friends, is huge.  All four of us were able to go to the movies together as a family. 

It all started a few months back, when a local mom took it upon herself to start a petition to get our local movie theatre to offer sensory-friendly movies.  Basically, the movie volume is lowered, the lighting is brighter than your traditional movie, and it's acceptable for people to chit-chat, and move around if they have to.  Or if they want to.  While the theatres have not yet committed to doing this on a regular basis, they did invite the autism community to attend a movie this morning. 

Going to a movie might not seem like a big deal to some families, but perhaps that is because it's a real option for you.  A way to kill a rainy afternoon, or a great last-minute recreational option.  But to us, loud movies, darkened theatres and the need to be hush-hush aren't a real option.  So, what happened this morning was an example of real inclusion.  A commnity event was made accesssible to those who might be otherwise excluded. 

I loved that I didn't have to worry if himself failed to whisper.  I loved that the kid behind me periodically kicked my seat, and his parents didn't have to worry that I would be upset.  Or even be offended in the least.  I loved overhearing one boy say to another, "when my fish dies, I'm going to get a rabbit, and when my rabbit dies, I'm going to get a reindeer."  Moreso, the fact that he said this loud enough for all to hear, in the middle of a movie theatre, and not one person was annoyed. 

You see, sometimes it's not just the person with the disability who needs to be included.  Sometimes it's the whole family. As families, we need places to go and  things to do, but we want to be able to do them in an accepting environment.  We can do that for each other, but we need community partnerships to provide a breadth of experiences and options for our families.  We need companies and venues who are compassionate enough to make the effort to serve the whole community.

So, thank you to the mom who took the time, and put the energy into asking for this movie experience. 

And thank you to Empire Theatres for being willing to make small accomodations, that make such a big diference.

This morning, we went to a movie.  All of us, together.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

No, I Do Not Hate Autism

Just this past week I really came to realize the importance of perspective.  One truly can see a glass as half full, or half empty.

I opened up my facebook a few mornings ago, cup of coffee in hand, planning on spending a few mindless minutes prior to starting my day.  In my notifications, I saw that I had been invited to an event, it was called "I love my child but I HATE AUTISM".


The name itself gave me a visceral reaction.  As my boy was hovering nearby, I found myself blocking the screen so that he would not read those hurtful words.  The boy we have been raising to not only know that he has autism, but to be proud of it.  My immediate reaction was to post on the event saying that it a poorly named event, but after a moment's thought I decided I would "let it go".  We can't tackle every little thing after all. 

Later on, I just had to take a peak back at the page, and was surprised to see that there was a mocking tone being used towards those who had taken the time to acknowledge that they found the event name distasteful.  The offended were being treated as overly sensitive people with their heads in the clouds.  Others speculated that they must be the parents of young children, and obviously not dealing with aggressive adolescents.  Needless to see, it was at this point that I added my own two cents worth.

Others on the event page likened hating autism as being equal to hating cancer, or epilepsy.  I just don't get how they could possibly draw these similarities. You don't have to agree with me, but I don't see autism as a portion of my child. He is not a whole with one deficient part. Autism is sprinkled throughout him, integrally mixed in, where it belongs.  Autism is not a disease.  It is not like Dexter Morgan's "Dark Passenger", that needs to be segmented into a part of their being.  It is their being, it is how they interpret, and integrate into the world.

How can we hate autism?  This is when I saw the benefits of a differing perspective.  People on this page spoke of what their children should be, or could be.  They see autism as a parasite, feeding off their child, taking from them, disabling them.  They just don't seem to see their children for who they are.  Autism is not some masked terrorist who stole their child.  Your child is there, right there in front of you, if you are too busy grieving the child you thought you had, you might miss out on the chance to love and enjoy the one you have.

How could I hate autism? Autism has many faces, but for me, it is the beautiful face of my boy.  It is the golden thread that is woven in and out of every fibre that is the tapestry of who he is.  Who he was meant to be.  And to me, he is perfect.  I could hate his autism no more than I could hate his creativity, his sense of humour, or any other part of his personality. To hate autism would be to hate him. 

I love my child, and I stand in awe of his autism.