I’ve been watching documentaries. I told you that. Today I think I saw two of the best I’ve ever seen – and they were both about autism. The perspective and insight shown in both of these just blew my mind.
First, I watched “Wretches & Jabberers”. This is about 2 adult men with autism who have discovered their ability to finally communicate and advocate for themselves through the use of communicative devices. Typing, basically. They travel to several places around the world (Sri Lanka, Finland, Japan) meeting others with autism who have also learned to express themselves this way and link up. They share their thoughts, their dreams, their visions, their advocacy with each other through their typing.
I was so surprised and impressed. I admit – and I’m really not proud of myself for thinking this – I honestly did not know that people with what we could consider “severe” or “profound” autism like this had minds like this trapped inside. I guess I always thought that they just “didn’t know” or “couldn’t do it”, which is just flat wrong. Let me say that I’m terribly sorry for that assumption. I’m so thankful for this movie – to show me and others that there is so much trapped behind what they call “the monster” or the “beast”. We neurotypicals get caught up in the behaviors that are “abnormal” to us and don’t see the amazing people behind it. Which is so incredibly sad.
I’m very, very thankful for this movie. It’s unflinchingly honest and eye-opening in a way I was NOT expecting. The things that Tracy and Larry have to say (as well as Henna, Antti, Chammi & Naoki) are profound. They are painful to hear. They are raw and honest. And we all need to hear them. They are far from “stupid” or “retarded” and they and those they advocate for need to no longer be sidelined & ignored because WE do not understand them.
This is streaming instantly on Netflix. You can also see it on iTunes, VOD and buy the DVD. You can read more about them and their work here.
Then I watched Loving Lampposts. Wow. This really turned my view of autism (and especially Henry) on its ear. It really explores the culture of those dealing with autism and how parents, loved ones and the people themselves deal with it. There are those that are searching for a “cure” in what seems like a quest to make their children “normal”. Then there are those who view autism as a type of “neurodiversity”. Like this is another characteristic that makes humanity diverse.
What I loved best about this was seeing the 1st person accounts of autism. It’s not a disease. It’s not like cancer or AIDS or Alzheimer’s where the world would be a better place if it were eradicated. These people are simply wired differently. I loved the quote “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” because that couldn’t be more true. There are as many different characteristics, behaviors, problems, and manifestations of autism as there are people who have it. And they’re not SICK. It’s not something to be cured – I don’t think. Yes, there are intercessions that will improve their lives and help them to better function in society, but they don’t need curing. In fact, that problem, I believe, lies way more with us, the neurotypical, than it does with them. We’re so desperate to have “normal” children that we focus primarily on finding treatments, medicines, etc., and end up not just interacting with them. Mirroring them. Rather than trying to get them to be more like us, maybe we could better interact if we tried to be more like them when we do it. (I mean when they’re children and we’re trying to reach them).
I don’t know – I’m not expressing myself correctly. In the movie, they express that we can teach our autistic children to memorize the correct answers for things and that doesn’t really do anything except make those around the child feel better. Maybe there’s a different way….? That’s all I’m saying.
It seems we’re so busy identifying, classifying, labeling (high-functioning, low-functioning, severe, profound, etc.) that we’re missing out on their LIFE. As one adult with autism put it when asked what it’s like to live with autism, “I just want to LIVE my LIFE.”
It made me think of Henry. I’ve always tended to bit more negative than Steve when it comes to this. I worry and fret and mourn for the things Henry WON’T do. Steve shakes his head and says, “Don’t do that. Henry isn’t concerned or unhappy about what he CAN’T do. He’s just happy being Henry.” I think that really sums it up well. Yes, I want to do whatever I can to help Henry grow and thrive and achieve his potential. But I must stop focusing on his Down Syndrome and autism as these negative things “keeping him down”. He’s just Henry. He doesn’t want me to think of him as sick or deficient or having a disease any more than someone who’s gay does. They’re not SICK. They’re neurodiverse. They don’t need to be “fixed”. They need to be embraced, accepted and loved just as they are.
I think that’s an interesting comparison that the movie made – comparing it to the gay community. Here are two groups of people who have been marginalized, sidelined, called names, treated as lesser humans all because they’re something “different” about them. Maybe, just maybe, they all are the way they are because God made them that way. Goodness knows, I’ve heard enough about how God loves variety & diversity in His creation. Maybe He made people with autism, Down Syndrome and other developmental delays because He likes what they bring to the table. Because they have something to teach us about life.
I don’t know. What I do know is these 2 documentaries are amazing. If you have any interest in autism, know anybody with autism or just want a broader viewpoint of the world in general, watch these.Tweet