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Autism and the School Play February 18, 2010

Posted by hopeauthority in Autism, Children, Parenting, school, special education, special needs, specific carbohydrate diet, Uncategorized.
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“He’s going to be a horse.”

The note came home from his second grade teacher. The play he’s been working so hard for since October in his mainstream Music class was rapidly approaching.

A HORSE??

What the heck kind of play is this? Is it all horses? Is the horse a central character? And most importantly…can the show go on if the horse runs away?!

The note continues. “Must wear solid black, brown, or tan. A headpiece will be provided.”

HEADPIECE?!

You’re freakin kidding, right? Ok. Now, I’m starting to sweat. What kind of headpiece are we talkin about here? Doesn’t matter. I don’t see him even trying it on, much less wearing it for a 30 minute production.

Thirty minutes?

What are the odds of Fabio and his one other autistic classmate making it through this mainstream version of “The Tortoise and the Hare”…with about 35 other “typical” second graders?

Thirty minutes of standing in place on risers, many musical numbers with hand and arm gestures, taking turns, NOT running away, even in the face of all those parents and grandparents and their camcorders…and all the noise.

To date, Fabio has had bad experiences with stages. Graduation from his special needs program right before kindergarten didn’t go well. He was miserable, wouldn’t wear the cap, and was melting in the gown. And he refused to go up for his diploma. One of only 3 kids who wouldn’t. Ditto in two award ceremonies for reading since then.

But time has passed since those events. And Fabio has also had a chance to see his sister perform in several concerts and live theater productions in the community. He goes to the shows, sits nicely, and gives her flowers at the end. And he loves music. Maybe this would be different.

I figured I’d better prepare him in advance for the idea that we’d be coming to see this play. So a few days beforehand, while he and I were laying in my bed relaxing before bedtime,  I said in my happy but not too excited voice, “Mommy and Daddy can’t wait to come and see you be a horse in the show.”

“No.”

“Well, um, yes, honey. We are going to come see you just like the other mommies and daddies of your friends. Ok?”

“No.”

Time for a new approach. “Honey, Mommy and Daddy want to come see you just like we come see Nic (Sister) in her shows. We are so happy and proud of you and want to come see your play. And we’ll bring you a present.”

I see the wheels turning as he considers this. I brace myself for the request. Surely he’ll ask for some costly toy…

“Bring flowers.”

Did I hear that right? Flowers? For a school production? For a boy? Well, why the hell not! You got it, bud. And I secretly applauded his connection between his play and his sister’s plays and the ritual of giving flowers.

So we grabbed the camcorder, special treats for the after-party that he could eat on his diet, and of course, the freakin flowers, and we hurried off into the snowy morning traffic to get good seats for whatever was in store for us. And we waited. All the “typical” kids came in and took their places. All the kids in the classes of those kids came in and took their places.  All those kids’ parents and grandparents came in and took their places.

Where is he?

Then, bringing up the rear… like a cowboy hearding cattle… marched my “horse” with the horse headband on! He went right to his spot on the riser. The music began.

He was perfect. PERFECT. He was typical. In fact, he was better than typical. No one there would ever have guessed that he or his classmate beside him had autism.

I started to cry. My husband started to cry. His teachers and aides started to cry. His former teachers who came out in the snow from other schools and from maternity leave just to see him…started to cry. And for about 30 minutes we all watched in awe as he did every single thing just right. And he radiated happiness. The little black horse with the headpiece on his head.

And when it was over and the tears were dried, that little horse rode off into the hallway… carrying flowers like a champion.

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