There is a wonderful book by Dr. Suess that is traditionally given around this time of graduation called “Oh, the Places You Will Go” Some of the lines include:
…You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights….
I think about recently, how a number of other blogging mothers have noted the places and things that they’ve learned about from following their children: Jess, from A Dairy of a Mom, recognized that she is a collector of stories. Mom-Not Otherwise Specified is a fan of Dierks Bentley now. Martian Momma hears John Denver songs in her head, and JoyMama recognizes Universal Design in a potato peeler.
When you have a child with autism, you expect to learn about doctors. You expect to learn about therapies and school and speech and medical and food issues. These are things that are discussed in the books. Heck, these are things discussed in MY book. But you don’t always expect the wonderful and interesting road you take learning about… the other things. The things that make up YOUR child’s world. The things that autism impacts, but isn’t always a part of autism itself, but are a part of your child.
…And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on…
Which is all an introduction that explains why at 8:30 on a Saturday morning when we haven’t slept in for weeks, I was sitting in a darkened theater, watching my daughter audition for a part in the Summer Children’s Theater production of Cinderella. And I pondered how so many of the things that we fuss at her about, we work with her on, that are a part of her autism, actually are characteristics that are rewarded and even applauded in this context.
Elizabeth is loud. Very loud. Ear-piercingly loud sometimes. She talks loud. She sings loud. She squeaks loud. She is often oblivious to the people around her and isn’t tuned into her own voice either- and so, she’s loud. We have a sign to remind her of the need to turn down her volume that is the sign language “V” , where we make a “V” with two fingers and bring them down, indicating that she is to talk more quietly. I’m always amused that it’s also the sign for “Peace” since that is what we are trying to create around us when she’s being loud.
In the theater, loud is GOOD! Her voice was very clear and truly did reach the last rows. The director wrote that down. Compared to so many other children who were whispering, Elizabeth was fabulous!
Elizabeth is VERY dramatic. She’s known as a diva around her school, since all of her emotions are exaggerated. She’s very good at imitating what she thinks she sees. “Oh, I’m sad. This is what sad looks like” and then howls her head off. “Oh, I’m happy. This is what happy looks like” and she’s turning cartwheels and jumping up and down. “Scared” is worthy of any teen scream movie. However, such dramatics don’t run deep, since I can give her “the look” and cue her with the reminder “Exaggeration” and it turns right off. In echolalic fashion, she imitates Hannah Montana and Selena Gomez. She imitates her friends as well, and we are always very careful about who she hangs out with because she will one-up them. Subtle is not her style. When she’s truly sad or disappointed, it’s much quieter. It’s much less public. But she has learned to communicate by imitating characteristics and movements and phrases.
In the theater, grand gestures are GOOD! She portrayed a disappointed Cinderella for five lines in the audition and her deep sighs, slumped shoulders, pouty lips, and downcast eyes were clearly visible from the back row.
And lastly, Elizabeth doesn’t have a strong sense of embarrassment. She wants approval, but has a smaller sense of awareness of other’s opinions. It’s actually a concept she has struggled with for a while and tends to place it next to anger or shame. But embarrassment isn’t contained within you- embarrassment comes about when you know and care about what other people think and she’s learning this. Her anxiety does not come about when people are looking, but when people are NOT looking. Luckily for us, she doesn’t create scenes, but does love to be the positive center of attention. She’s a good student and loves the accolades. She’s a good athlete and loves winning.
In the theater, embarrassment turns into stage fright and Elizabeth has very little stage fright. In the theater, no embarrassment is a GOOD thing! She bounded right up on stage and delivered her lines beautifully. She sang, off-key, but loud. She danced, off-rhythm, but she watched her fellow dancers very carefully and kept up- a half a step behind.
I don’t know yet if she was cast. She’s young, much younger than the majority of children trying out. She’s also not a great singer and dancer, something the director may be looking for in a musical number. She is, in so many ways, half a step behind.
But early on a Saturday morning, I found myself applauding wildly from the back row of a theater, seeing my girl’s challenges turn into gifts right in front of me. And I marveled at the places we’ve gone and where we’re going.
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!