Monday, 19 August 2013

YouTube Self-Discovery

I logged onto YouTube today, for the first time in Who Knows When
Well it turns out my 20 year old son, severely autistic, unable to care for himself, has apparently hacked in.
For the last two years

It shouldn't surprise me. 
About 6 months ago everyone in my contacts list received an email saying:
" Eric good boy. Eric get presents. Eric get Mickey Mouse toy, Ford C600 model kit"
Eric is unable to bathe himself adequately , cannot speak beyond an 18 month old level or understand danger, but he sure knows his way around a computer! 

My son's skills are all over the spectrum, pun intended! 

ANYWAY, when I logged on, I noticed I had a "watch later" and "favourites" tab. I had never noticed this before, but SOMEONE (guess who) must have, because I had entries logged for the past 2 years. Remember, my severely autistic son  had "favourited" these videos, but for the last 2 years anybody looking would naturally assume I had done so. 
I decided to watch them myself, and see why "I" would single them out.



 Eric uses a method of communication the "experts" call "delayed echolaylia". Basically he stores up tape recordings in his mind of moments, scenes, feelings that imprinted on him, and plays them back, note for note, intonation and volume accurate, to express his immediate state. He often uses the dialogue from this particular clip of Babe to express anxiety. It is very telling that this clip was favourited 2 years ago, as Eric was in the thralls of crisis, anxiety so intense he'd end up hospitalized twice as well as a placement in a safe bed. He must have known he was descending into severe anxiety. He couldn't communicate this to me, but he was able to leave a trace for me to find on the computer. It was actually quite painful to see this clip, and the timing of it, but I forced myself to look at it as if it HAD been me who had placed this video in my "Watch Later" folder. I needed to see it in a light OTHER than my baby being forced into the hospital. I re-watched it over and over until I could see it that way. Then I realized. I WOULD place it in that folder. Not for the reasons my son had, but for my very own. Babe has no self identity at the beginnings of the video. Rather than being himself he is desperately trying to please everyone. He goes through humiliation and rejection before someone points out to him that if he is just the sweet little piglet he's always been, than everything will turn out fine. Hmmmmm. Took me 40+ years to figure that one out. Made me wonder, what else does Eric know about ME that took me so long to recognize? On to Video #2!

Beast Wars- Cheetor & Waspinator


Well, as I clicked on this one, I thought, NO WAY this reflects on me today! Beast Wars was a cartoon my boys (including Eric) watched when they were little. It was the evolution of a show I had watched as a child, Transformers.Yes, I was a major TomBoy. I had loved Transformers and have to admit I would watch every episode of Beast Wars with the boys. My eldest son Chris has Aspergers Syndrome (Aspie) and as is typical was INFATUATED with animals and machines, so this show was like manna to our family. As I watched this clip I assumed outright that MY association to it would be simply that- my own childhood filtered through my childrens' eyes. Oh How I Love Being Wrong (where is that cacophonous laughter coming from?). Eric loves Beasties, always has. He was able to say Cheetor, Optimus Prime and Megatron LONG before he could say Mommy. In fact a transforming Megatron was Eric's transitional object (sort of a security blanket to help make it through the chaos of everyday life that those who are neurotypical negotiate naturally) for nearly a decade. So HOW could this be about me, other than the connection to my childhood? Well my monkey seems to have chosen videos that pack some psychological surprises. This is a really short clip, 1 minute plus 1 second. But the title betrays so much. Robots in disguise. How many years did I act the role, be the person everyone needed me to be? I wasn't helping myself OR my children by being a Stepford Wife.  In the clip Cheetor is running with two real cheetahs, reveling in the freedom of being who he IS, when he is stopped in his tracks by another "robot in disguise" Many many times in my life I tried to escape the bonds of my assumed persona, pleasing everyone, martyr to the core. It was not WHO I was, but was who everyone WANTED me to be. My childrens' challenges forced me out of that. I had to fight for them day in and day out. And that taught me to fight for ME as well. Cheetor is the youngest, most naive "Beastie", as I was the youngest, most naive Pollard, but he is also the most open and most endearing. His need to be wild, yet grounded and caring is so much like me that I am shocked I never saw the connection before. Apparently, my son did.


Ok, I KNOW most of you won't click on the  link, or if you do, you wont watch all FIFTEEN MINUTES AND FORTY SEVEN SECONDS of it. I think my son must have been mad at me when he favourited this one! How the (insert expletive here) do Tellytubbies reflect on who I am? For my son they were always a huge draw. Created and marketed solely for the toddler sect, TellyTubbies fit perfectly into my son's developmental taste scheme (most of his choices don't!), so I was very tempted to ignore this particular "watch later" "favourite". But as I was moving on to the next video the pangs of guilt were overwhelming and I watched the episode. Well, most of it. What I came away with was the recollection of the constant controversy that surrounded the TellyTubbies. "Tinky Winky is Gay, he's purple after all", "TellyTubbies promote obesity in kids" etc. All this was, and still is said about TellyTubbies- insane, I know, but when I researched it, it is out there, I just don't want to give those people 'airtime' by providing links! I was a shy teacher's pet in a very blue collar neighbourhood. I married a man who told me daily how pathetic I was. When my son was diagnosed nearly 17 years ago I still ran into doctors who believed autism was caused by a mother not loving her child enough, ie I did this to him because I was a bad mother. I have had people making nasty assumptions about my boys and me daily for as long as I can remember. What is that saying about the word "assume"? It makes an ass out of......, well, asses were abundant! So many people were so willing, and are still so willing, to only see negative in something their children loved. They needed to knock that idol off its pedestal. I chose to see the wonder in my son's eyes, to hear my son say Po, a NAME, to see him smile and LAUGH. I choose to see that even though THEY may look at my son, and me, with disdain, that THEY are the ones who should be pitied. Like the tellytubbies, my children and I have endured a LOT of attacks,  from complete strangers and those close at hand. I'd like to believe that, like the TellyTubbies, we still remain innocent, untouched by that negativity and open and loving as ever.(HS That part in particular was for you, thank you for helping me see it!) 
Yes, I am like the TellyTubbies, now lets move on. 

Jurassic Park 3- Spinosaurus Attack

So,this one, for Eric, is a no-brainer. He loves Jurassic Park, Loves dinosaurs, Loves people being eaten by dinosaurs (he's a boy, what can I say) and Loves airplanes. I can see why this clip is a draw. Now, why would it reflect on ME? The parents doing anything they can to save their child is too obvious. The guy who gets sacrificed to prove to the viewer that Spinosaurus is a man-eater is too self-indulgent. So who does that leave? Dr Grant the intelligent, introverted experienced professor who was traumatized by his experiences in the original Jurassic Park, or his over eager smart yet suave and attractive student? HMMMM what reflects best on me? As I'm pondering this, at 1:50 am (no one sleeps normal hours in an Autism household) Eric sleepily walks into my room, casually looks at the video playing, crawls into my bed and says " Sweet Dreams". It took me more than a decade to teach him to say that, so I smile as he crawls under my blankets. Eric can spend the night in my bed anytime he uses words appropriately.

But wait, what did Eric just say? 
"Sweet Dreams"
HMMM,  maybe more appropriate than I first thought! 

For most of my life, for as long as I can remember actually, I had planned on being a psychiatrist or an archeologist (similar to Dr Grant and his protege in this clip, or Indiana Jones *swoon* ). Life got in the way. Or did it? Every day I dig for information on treatments, therapies, services. I analyze myself and know when I need a break, know when I need to catch some live music before I literally bust. Every day I discover new music or music venues for myself, or delve into psychological research papers to make sure I'm as current as possible for my boys. Every day I am a psychiatrist scouring for connections to help my boys, and satisfy my own craving for knowledge. I dig and dig and dig. This is not the life I expected when I dreamed of being an archeologist or psychiatrist, and it is not an easy life, but my dreams truly are sweet. Thank you HS for reminding me of this via Facebook, and my own little monkey Eric, well, quite big now actually, via YouTube and with the sweet words you , a child I was told would never speak, uttered as you sleepily walked by me moments ago. 

Life isn't always what we plan, but the journey definitely is something to write home about!

(or post on a blog!)

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