Tuesday’s with Autism – Glow Like Rudolph

“Why am I such a misfit?”
“I am not just a nit wit”
“Just because my nose glows”
“Why don’t I fit in”

– Ruldolph (the Metaphor) Reindeer

It’s almost December and you can bet that I am sitting here with the kids watching CBS’ annual stop-motion classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. You can also bet that I immediately thought of how the underlying message directly applies to those of us living with autism. (and oh, how I love me a good autism metaphor!)

Rudolph’s parents recognize that his red nose is different, but that he is still the bundle of reindeer they had always dreamed about. Rudolph’s mom gets to acceptance much fast than his father. Still, they want to protect him from a community that knows jack frost squat about red noses. Donner and….Mrs. Donner (that’s a whole other post *eye roll*) shy away from talking about his nose, and go as far as concealing his glow.

As plot lines go, Rudolph is found out, and a bunch of jerk reindeer peers tease him. This was made in 1964, so the adult reindeer  have absolutely no problem with calling him names and ostracizing Rudy. Finally, the ultimate, soul crushing moment for any young one – Santa tells Donner (Dad) that Rudolph isn’t good enough for his team.

Rudolph runs away with Hermie ( a misfit toy that also thinks differently than his fellow elves). As they are leaving their community, the narrator said something that struck me:

“The world looked a lot more complicated…than when they were snug and warm by the fire”

Isn’t that the damn truth?!

I mean, there’s always the running gag about not having a manual to parenthood, but when you’re initially thrown into autism you don’t even have the words for the missing manual! It can feel like you,  much like Hermie and Rudolph, are disconnected from your community, facing a cold unknown – but you have to forge on. Why? Because, what else are you going to do??

Hermie and Rudolph aren’t alone for very long. They meet Yukon Cornelius, the Abominable Snowman, and the misfit toys – they find people who each have gone off the beaten path. This new community helps the duo: they don’t judge, they offer support, and they offer their own perspective. They teach Rudolph and Hermie to embrace their abilities and to be proud of their differences.

By the end of the show, Rudolph and Hermie bring both communities together (inclusion), and Christmas is saved thanks to extra helping hands, Christmas  cheer, an elf with a penchant for dentistry, and a glowing red nose.

As we head into the holiday season, remember that there will be people who may think it’s better to hide your “shiny nose”.  To this I say, GLOW.

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Friday Haha – The Football Game

I recently went to my first college football game as part of a writing assignment. We don’t watch a lot of sports in our house, so the first thing I had to do was convince my little guys that this was going to be super fun. When I enthusiastically told them about our plans, they both looked at me with blank faces. Lief simply said, “Nah, that’s okay. I will stay with Dad.” August just wore the same face I would wear sitting through a quantum physics class: pure confusion at the most basic level. Footwhat? It was obvious I was going to need help when I proudly declared that the seats were by “the front of the goal line or something” so I invited my mother-in-law as a “cultural translator” so to speak.

I can’t give away spoilers for the other piece I’m writing, but I can tell you about Lief’s take on the evening. First, we convinced him to go with the promise that it’s the one place that encourages you to be LOUD. For a child who needs a constant reminder about using his inside voice, he was sold. What we failed to point out to our brilliant and quite literal thinker was that it didn’t mean that you walked into the stadium and basically battle-cry nonstop until you leave.

The moment we sat down, the shouting started “OH YEAH BAY-BEH! OH YEAH BASKETBALL!!!! I MEAN FOOTBALL!!!!! GOOOOOOOOO! WHOOOOOOOOOOOO!” We had 40 minutes before the game started. The team was stretching and a few people were meandering around the field.

I tried explaining the art of the shout, but it was too late. “You said this was a place I can be loud and I am being loud” he protested. Fair point. My mother in law pointed out that if he screamed the entire time, he would lose his voice. Logic is the way of the Lief and it helped for about 10 rock solid minutes.

By the time the game actually started, Lief had cheered for stretching, a mascot, a man in a banana suit, a few commercials on the big screen, the national anthem (during and after), the flags, a baton twirler, both bands, a picture of the Ghostbusters logo,  the cameras, both teams, and a handful of other things I’m sure I am missing. My mother-in-law showed him when to put his pointer finger in the air and yell, “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” (or something like that?) and quickly put his arm down when it absolutely *wasn’t* the time to do that. Through it all, Lief cheered and shouted and rallied. Our team was up? HORRAY TEAM! Our team was down? HORRAY OTHER TEAM! I was truly shocked he kept his voice and didn’t sound a bit raspy the following day. His vocal chords are impressive, for better and worse.

Besides walking away from the game and realizing I would absolutely do that again in a heartbeat, I also reflected on my loud-mouthed love. He is *everyone’s* greatest supporter and cheerleader, in and out of the stadium. He cheers on his brothers, his friends, and really anyone that crosses his path. When we went trick-or-treating, he complemented passerby’s costumes. He told some big boys in terrifying killer-clown masks that they did a good job scaring him. The boys just said, “uhhhhh thanks”, and Lief walked on, a kick in his step.

We constantly are reminding him to turn down his voice. Sometimes, he is so loud that I’m sure my ears will start bleeding. If I think about it though, 9 times out of 10, he is simply being happy, enthusiastic, and excited about whatever adventure he’s come up for the day.

The next time you have some tedious task to take of, channel your inner Lief. He will rally you through it all. “GO PAYING BILLS!!!’ “WHOOOO HOOOOO ROOT CANAL!!!!” “OH YEAAAAHHHHHHH BAY-BEH, CLEAN THE TOILETS”!!

You’ve got this.

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