I’m an autism mom. I’m also a preemie mom, asthma mom, ADHD mom, mom to teens, mom to a middle schooler, part-time working mom, dance mom, cheer mom, golf mom, and cross country mom….but that’s all beside the point for today’s topic. I see the world through the lenses of an autism mom. Things that may have nothing to do with autism will sometimes still strike me as relating to autism or just special needs in general.
I took the Princess and Little Man to see Finding Dory last week. We went because Little Man was OBSESSED with Nemo when he was little, and we wanted to come full circle. I loved Nemo too, if I’m being totally honest. Laughed and cried. We’ve watched it a thousand times, no lie. I didn’t read much on it beforehand – just saw a couple of snippets on social media. I saw some mentions of an autism connection, but I didn’t read the details.
It was with those autism mom lenses I watched the movie. It hit me so hard – those silent tears dripped unwillingly out of my eyes. I cheered Dory as I would my own child when she completed a difficult and challenging task, when she did something she didn’t believe she could do, when she discovered her particular talents were looked upon with admiration by those she cared about. “What would Dory do?”….the line undid me. It still does.
I cried when Dory’s mom worried to let her play with the “normal” fish, wondering if she would be accepted, or if her disability would cause her to be shunned, much less lost.I cried when Dory’s parents gave her the tools to survive, to find her way home, even though it took years for her to find her way back. I cried when Dory realized she’d used the tools her parents had given her, that they were right there all along. I cried when she believed in herself as much as others believed in her.
I spend my days reinforcing all we’ve taught Little Man, worrying he will be accepted, have friends, not be shunned nor get lost along the way. I try to manage as much as I can so he won’t see how different he is, so he will believe in himself, that he will remember all the tools we’ve given him, that he will find his way in the world and be successful in his own right.
I felt like Dory’s mom. When you have a child with special needs, who’s different, you worry, you fret, you do all you can to make their path easier….you sing songs, you reinforce, you encourage, you help, you hope and you pray. You leave a trail of shells (or goldfish crackers, or Pokemon, or Minecraft and Five Nights at Freddie’s plushies) because you know your beautiful child loves them and will notice them, following the path home. You hold your breath when he steps out on his own, into a new situation, possibly outside of his comfort zone. You wait for the sometimes-inevitable crash. You cry, and laugh, and sing when the wins come his way.
I don’t know if the writer of the script meant for all of that to come through in this movie. As I said, I had my autism mom glasses on, and carried that sensitivity into the theater with me. I will say, it was a beautiful testament to life with a special needs child. Let the tears flow, and the cheers roar.