Tuesday, November 15, 2011

For the love of pixar...

This morning we are curled up in San Francisco, recovering from our wondrous weekend.

As we are within driving distance of Pixar headquarters, I thought it was time to explore part two of the lessons learned from our adventure on the american autism island.

Before I talk about the magical powers of Lightening McQueen, I just want to quickly talk about the isolation part of autism parenting, and why we really don't need to feel isolated at all.

Almost a year ago (I should find the post and link to it, but I am in holiday mode and can smell bacon cooking somewhere), we had a get together of a bunch of the Australian families involved in a local autism board. We all 'knew' each other, online, and had done for anything up to four years. But only a couple of us had actually met in person. To be honest, we were nervous. We were wondering how the adults would get on, we were worried how the kids would get on (or cope), we were worried it would wreck the tentative balance of the board...

Thankfully, nothing bad happened. In fact, spookily, nothing bad happened. No disagreements, no meltdowns, no tears. Not even from the kids.

In case that was a freaky case of all of us breathing calm gas, or something... I came to America, to meet some of the parents from the first autism board I ever joined. And this weekend proved that a relationship formed on the internet, can indeed translate into real life.

I'm not advocating purchasing a spouse online, though if that's what you want to do, who am I to stop you? But I am trying to point out that the support you can get online (stress that 'can' a few times because we all know the pitfalls of crazy online boards) can seriously save your life.

One of the original members of our board, opened her house to us last Friday night, sharing her beautiful family (and their various toys). There were five boys (three spectrumites, two NT sibs), three grown up men (sharing BBQs and comparing beer and sports results) and three women who could barely take their eyes off each other.

Even though there was nowhere near enough time to download all our stories, and thank each other enough... we learned some amazing things about the power of the internet-born support relationship.

What has grown (for us), sustained by boards and Facebook, is a kind of acceptance that maybe we haven't defined before. It knows your backstory, it knows your child's quirks already, it needs no contextualising. Plus it sees the humour in ending a meal with syringes full of supplements and meds. It doesn't question, it doesn't judge, and it knows when to put Pixar on the TV.

Seriously, on Friday night, the boys were all over the shop, having played, eaten, played, cuddled the dog, played, hidden in corners, played, jumped on a crash mat (I want one of those so badly), and played some more. Then the great god Pixar appeared, and five boys and one dog instantly curled up on the couch. The three ASDians clutched their electronics (2 iPads and a DS) and the two stunning sibs hovered, gadget free, around the screen. It was magical. Like a movie. Maybe even a Pixar movie.

There's always a way to calm kids. No matter what their needs. It may not be what your mother did. It may not be what your friends do. But there is always a way.

And while kids are calm, parents can truly connect. And relax. And laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

That, in a sentence (and a couple of fractured phrases) is the biggest gift last weekend brought.

Who needs Santa, when you have Pixar and the internet?

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