Friday, April 23, 2010

Awards, and what they really mean... I think...

This week, Through My Eyes was recognised in the NSW Autism Recognition Awards.

It was a huge surprise, for a lot of reasons.

This is going to take a while... I may get a bit circular in my descriptions, so you have my permission to go somewhere else, or make a cup of coffee to get you through.

I am very fortunate to be able to make a living doing something I love. I love writing, and I've loved writing since I was a little kid. I loved it at school. I loved it at university. I was the idiot who actually liked writing assignments because it was fun pulling research together into some kind of expression. I was lucky that it was possible for me to make a career out of stringing words together, even though many times it wasn't much of a living.

A lot of the time, especially when I was still working in the theatre, I would question what the hell I was trying to do. We had lots of high ideals about holding a mirror up to nature and all that stuff. We had a lot of definitions about what art was, and what it wasn't. But, at the same time, I'd be thinking why should I expect people to drop $50 (it was the 80s and 90s) to watch people pfaff around in frilly dresses?

So, it seemed logical to stick with writing for kids. I could see the effect it had on the audience. I could almost quantify it. I got the chance to work with great people, and more importantly great kids. I got to experience great moments when you could literally see the light switching on in a kid's eyes. When they connected with the words I'd written, or identified with a character one of the actors had brought to life... there was magic in those moments, and that magic felt good. Good and useful.

Plus, every time I tried to write something for adults theatre-wise, it sucked. Let me re-phrase that, I sucked. So kids, it was.

Television was even more practical. If you get it wrong, you're out, so it was a much more quantifiable beast. High pressure, clear guidelines, relatively easy tasks in quick succession. Kids TV, even more so... it remains a massive gift to be able to make kids laugh, smile, remember the alphabet or what a musical instrument looks like.

And then came Billy.

Like most parents who work with kids prior to their parenting experience, I was shocked at how much I didn't know. I was inspired to use the instinct that he uncovered in me, to make even better work for little ones. Hi-5 has been an amazing job, a flexible, dynamic, supportive job where you can walk in and say 'I'm thinking of rapping beavers', and people go, 'Yay! Go for it!' And lately, working on shows like Magical Tales has shown me you can push boundaries for yourself and for kids and really make change.

That's all theory though. And Billy, and many other kids don't necessarily fit into the theory.

Along came this little boy who relaxed (and I mean legs crossed, arms behind the head) in front of long stories on the TV when he was under one year old. He learned really quickly from a TV screen - letters, numbers, colours. He would choose the TV over people (especially kids) every time, especially if the TV was showing kids. He memorised whole episodes of kids shows, and a few commercials as well... Which was around the time we worked out we needed to seek some advice from the professionals.

While we were seeking that advice (it took a while, given the almost complete lack of understanding we got from the doctors initially) I got thinking about what I do, and who Billy is. I realised I had some skills that could be useful to him, beyond cuddling and cooking chicken nuggets.

It has taken me a long time to get this stuff together. I'll re-phrase again... It is taking me a long time to get this stuff together. What I know, though, is that I won't stop trying.

I'll get things wrong, and I may get a few things right, but if words and pictures can make life easier for Billy to understand, then I'm going to keep on rearranging them for him, and others like him.

So, I come back to the awards night this week. ('Finally', I hear you say)

There are a bunch of serious advocates and heroes out there, doing amazing work with and for people on the spectrum. People lobbying governments, people researching, people working on the coal-face every day, people living with autism... and I'm just doing what I do.

I'm not studying for years. I'm not cleaning up poo (much). I'm not restraining my child while he injures himself. I'm not wrangling a bunch of assaults on my senses every minute.

I'm just doing what I do. But with a function and a reasoning that the me in the 80s and 90s was really hoping existed.

And it still seems like a luxury that many never get to experience.

Thank you everyone who puts up with me. Thank you everyone who jumps on board with another crazy scheme. Thank you (especially) to the ones who stick their necks out and believe in me (often more than I do myself).

It is a nice surprise. On a lot of levels.

1 comment:

Mẹ Cong said...

Hi Valerie,


I am parent in Hanoi - Vietnam. We have had your lyrics translated into Vietnamese. We still need more polishing on the translation, but here's the raw one.

Hope we can hear Bui Thanh sing this lyric some day.

Thanks for the song.