Monday, 28 October 2013

Happy Feet and Autism- There's a Story There

I would like to talk about the movie “Happy Feet”.  Consider it a preview of future events as Nathan is going as the penguin “Mumble” for Halloween and he will also be having a “Happy Feet” birthday party…after reading this post, you won’t have to ask why, that’s for sure.

I love this movie, and I would ask that each and every one of you who reads my blog and hasn’t seen it pulease go out and rent/buy/stream it whatever you have to do but please watch it.  It’s not just me who loves this movie; Nathan has always had a real affinity for it.  There is a lot of music, a lot of movement, yes, but that could be said about pretty much any kid’s movie.  This one, he loves it. 

The story is going to sound pretty familiar.  A little penguin hatches to two very proud parents and from the word Go it is apparent that he is “different” from other penguins.  He tap dances around all the time (stimming?) His mom and dad are worried, but he “looks” normal, and they send him off to school, where the teacher discovers that he cannot sing.  A penguin’s “heart song” is the way he communicates, the way he finds a mate (penguins mate for life).  And Mumble (yes Mumble) can’t communicate the way all of the other penguins do- instead, he communicates by dancing.  The teacher declares him a lost cause (I believe she says that a penguin without a heart song is hardly a penguin at all?  Cranky b-word) and mom and dad take him to a “specialist”, who says much the same. 

 He is not able to graduate with his peers, he is treated as “less than”.  His father is embarrassed and has a very difficult time accepting his differences, his mom thinks he’s perfect the way he is.  He becomes an outcast- but in the end, his differences end up saving the penguins as he finds a way to communicate with humans and save the fish supply that the humans have been consuming.  He becomes a hero. 

It’s a wonderful story, and I don’t even know if it was meant to be “about autism”, but the bottom line is that for any autism parent, the theme really resonates, and the way the story unfolds hits very close to home.  Mumble reminds me so much of my Nate.  It’s not just that he is different from his peers, it’s his view of the world around him, the way he accepts himself and if anything, seems oblivious to the fact that others may not see him as “normal”.  He is happy, he is in his own little world, and he sees nothing wrong with that.  I believe that Nate is capable of accomplishing great things, which is why I never stop pushing forward in this fight.  That being said….he is happy right now, just as he is.  Of that I am sure.

At the end of the movie, Mumble has the rest of the penguins dancing HIS dance, including his parents.  It is incredibly moving to me, and it makes me wonder, are we missing something?  We all know of people with autism who are considered “savants”, who visibly have a talent or skill that none of us can comprehend being able to accomplish.  There have been interviews with people on the spectrum who report that medications have “helped” them with speech, communication, day to day functioning, etc., but that they could no longer play the piano with the same skill they once had.  Any parent that lives with autism on a daily basis must contemplate this from time to time- why are our children the way they are?  Is it truly a “disorder”?  Is there a higher purpose?  And if so, why are we, as a society, so uncomfortable with all of this?  We are so concerned with our children conforming at times that we (including me) fail to remember the wonderful things that they bring to the table.

 Nathan has taught me more about the meaning of love in his 4 years of life than anyone else ever has.  I feel wise through being his mommy, I understand what acceptance is, and I have a broader view of what is important in life.  So many things that felt “tragic” before Nathan now feel more like….eh.  Things that other parents complain about are things that I dream of for my child.  I would kill for Nathan to really piss me off someday by dating someone I can’t stand, or rebelling.  That is my fantasy!  Please sweetie, marry the wrong girl, move in with her first, move to some exotic country and refuse to wear anything but a thong!  I support you 100%!  The thought of Nathan having that kind of independence….it brings tears to my eyes.  Yes, even with the thong in the same paragraph.  So at this point, that is the biggest lesson Nate has taught me- kind of like that book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff- And It’s All Small Stuff”.  You have it in writing now son, in case someday you are reading this- whatever your path is in life- go for it- I just pray that you are someday capable of choosing that path for yourself. 

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