If you ask my son what his favourite characters are, he’d likely tell you about Mario, Woody, Buzz Lightyear and maybe even Mickey Mouse. Those are the ones he watches most often and really likes to pretend to be because they have bad guys to beat. They have someone to who’s always trying to stop them and no matter what, they have to be better than the bad guys.
Still, you’ll never see him sit with such a wide eye smile and sense of pride as when he watches movies like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or Dumbo (the flying elephant).
You see, my son is 5 years old and even though he has Autism, he doesn’t really think of himself as different, like Rudolph or Dumbo would. He goes to a special school that has normal kids on the main floor and children with Autism on the bottom floor. He has other children with Autism around him, he has teachers and helpers with him the entire time and he has never even experienced bullying or teasing.
To him, he’s just another average boy doing average things and well, pretending to be Buzz Lightyear fighting off the evil Zurg (usually played by his little brother).
I tell you this because I often try to rationalize, to myself, why it would be that he’d identify with Rudolph and Dumbo so much. Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t talk about them too much after the initial hour or two immediately following the movie but just the way he talks about them, the look he has… the way he remembered the details after the very first time he saw them… this was so different than most movie’s he’s watched.
So if it’s not that he feels different and can relate to them, then what is it?
Well, maybe he just sees it in me… I don’t have a mirror but I’m willing to bet that I exude some sense of pride in my own inner need to relate them. To think of my son as the one that could save Christmas or become the star of the circus if he just believes in himself. Maybe he feeds off my energy.
Perhaps it’s just that he likes those types of stories, he wouldn’t be the first. I mean, they are classics for a reason. It’s certainly not unheard of that a child, or even an adult, would like the underdog stories for the sake of how good you feel at the end, when it turns out that they’re not just different, they’re special.
Or, as has been proven to me time and time again, maybe he realizes far more than I suspect he does. Maybe he does recognize his differences from his many family gatherings, trips to see other children and so forth. Maybe he realizes that when we tell him that some foods will “bo bo his tummy”, that he is likely one of very very few, maybe even the only (in his mind) person who can’t eat those things.
I don’t want to get into the topic of when to tell your child they are different or that they have Autism, that’s for another post as I’m not yet at that stage but, I do still wonder just how much he really knows.
I never dismiss anything because I never underestimate him. He’s my Rudolph. He’s my Dumbo. No matter what anyone thinks, I believe that he can accomplish anything that anyone else can and more… I’ll never stop believing it.