Sunday, April 8, 2012

Theater of the Mind

We don’t go out much. In fact, if I’m being honest, I don’t like to go out much because the uncertainty of autism is always lurking in the shadows. I never know if it’s going to be a good experience or if we’re just going to sit down for a couple minutes and have to leave. I probably shouldn’t be this way, but I think most parents of autistic children probably think the same way.

However, my wife is ever the optimist, and thank goodness for the children she is because otherwise we probably wouldn’t get to go anywhere.

This week was an exception. We made two eventful shows this and had some good experiences. I’d like to share them with you.

Tuesday night we went to Fort Smith to catch the production of Sesame Street Live. Konner’s never been a huge Sesame Street fan, but Kruz tends to like Elmo and the gang. A few months back we purchased the tickets, so Tuesday night there we were waiting for the show.

My first thought was, “I wonder how long this will last?” The answer was... until intermission. This was not Konner’s fault though. In fact, Konner did pretty well.

When the lights went out and the music started the first thing he did was cover his ears. This was normal thanks to the fairly high volume in the center. They stayed that way for most of the show, but he was still smiling and singing along, so we were good.

We also got lucky because there was nobody in the seat in front of him. He was free to kick and shake and could see the show just fine. I did try to keep him from kicking even though there was no one there just to let him know that it was not a good thing to do.

The reason we left early is because Kruz was ready to go. Intermission came, and we took off.

In all, Konner seemed to enjoy himself, and besides a few issues with opening doors for himself we had a good time.

Saturday night, thanks to the good people at the Gregory Kistler Treatment Center, we got free tickets to the Northwest Arkansas Ballet’s performance of The Wizard of Oz.  Jen thought it was a good idea, and I’ve never been to a ballet in person so I was actually looking forward to going – somewhat.

When we sat down, in nearly the same seats as we had on Tuesday night because it was the same facility, my first thought was, “Oh no, there is someone in front of him.”

However, Jen took him in her lap and pulled his legs up so that he wouldn’t kick them. There were several children in attendance, which I thought was a good thing because I figured other parents would understand if he was a little loud.

The first thing I noticed was that everyone was quiet, for the most part. Konner didn’t understand the concept of not talking, both on the stage and off. At one point he asked, “Do they talk?” This got a giggle from the man sitting in front of me. He did catch on though, and after a few minutes he was doing pretty well. This is probably because he has seen the movie several times and knows it by heart.

He was full of questions though.

Now, I’m not sure if it’s just Konner, or most children on the spectrum, but most times he has no volume on his voice. It’s either loud, or nothing. So when he asked where the yellow brick road was to begin the ballet, the people a few rows ahead of us chuckled a little. This trend continued throughout the show with Jen giving quiet answers in his ear, usually preceded by a “shhhhh”. This didn’t bother me or Jen too much, he was just giving a play-by-play of what was going on up on stage. I actually enjoyed this a little because, I’ve got to be honest, I kind of got lost in spots.

He also covered his ears when people clapped. Then he wanted Mom to cover his ears. Then he covered his ears and clapped at the same time.

We went out at intermission and had some issues with bathroom, but for the most part he was fine.

When we got back in and the lights went out I noticed that the elderly group in front of us had not returned. Now, I’m not sure if it had anything to do with Konner’s banter, but to be honest (and not at all trying to be rude) I don’t really care. Konner was enjoying the show and being good, and that was all that really mattered.

In all it was a really good night. We all seemed to enjoy ourselves (we even took his cousin Aiden with us and had ice cream afterward), and he really was pretty good.

There is not really lesson to this one other than the fact that; you should take your children out every once in a while to experience things despite your apprehension. They may just surprise you, and it will do them good.

As a side note: Don’t forget it’s Autism Awareness month. Make sure you do your part to spread the knowledge.

There will be a Parents of Autism meeting on Thursday, April 5 at Carl Albert State College with a guest speaker from Project Peak. She will be taking questions from the parents. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. and is in the F. L. Holton Business Center Theater.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.

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