The Henry Ford Museum/Greenfield Village complex in Dearborn, Michigan, has been a large part of the growth of my son with autism. When CBS started producing a show there, my son and I were excited. I started stalking @cbsinnovationtv on Instagram. We enjoyed looking at behind-the-scenes photos on Instagram and watching the show. Perhaps someday we’d get a chance to see them record live.
Well, last July the crew spent time taping at the complex, so off we went on an adventure to stalk, I mean watch, them tape. After some paparazzi-like behavior, we finally found a spot to watch the recording. It was fun, but we couldn’t get close enough to hear well, and we eventually had to go. I left them a comment on Instagram that we got to see them but couldn’t stay long enough to introduce ourselves.
CBS producer Jim Lichtenstein replied that they’d be back in September and to look for him and say hi. You bet your bottom dollar I’d do just that! In September I watched the Instagram account to see when Innovation Nation came back to town. This time we found the crew more quickly. In the midst of historical cars, I walked up to Jim Lichtenstein with my boys and introduced myself. He recognized me from Instagram. Then the magic began.
First he walked us over and introduced us to Mo Racca, the host. He snapped a picture for us. Then Mo and Jim took time to talk with my son. I tried to contain my excitement for him. What a gift to give a child who has social challenges!
When it was time to start taping again, we dutifully moved over to watch with other spectators. Imagine my surprise when Jim walked over to us, inviting us to stand with him behind the recording table. My son the gadget guy got to watch from behind the monitors and see all the equipment being used.
Then Jim started explaining to him how things worked. He took out his producer’s notebook and showed my Aspie the scripts, telling him what happens, etc. I was so touched. The tech-loving boy didn’t seem to be paying attention, but I knew he was listening. I leaned over and explained, “My son has Asperger’s syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. It may seem like he’s not listening to you, but he is.” Jim didn’t bat an eyelash.
This autism mom almost cried when Jim offered his headphones to my 9-year-old. That is not something you see every day. He allowed my son to listen in, to stand there like one of the crew members, to experience the making of a show he enjoyed watching on TV.
When the taping session was complete, we followed the crew to the next spot. Unfortunately, it takes much longer than you realize to set up a scene for taping and we had to leave before they started. We walked over to thank Jim and say our goodbyes. Jim opened his notebook, dug out a special laminated crew card, and presented it to my son for a souvenir. I might have fallen into a puddle of tears if we hadn’t been in public. My son walked out of that museum a happy kid.
I must admit, when I see those “CBS Cares” commercials on TV, I respond rather cynically inside with, “Yeah right. What a bunch of political mumbo jumbo.” But on that day in the Henry Ford Museum, one CBS producer really did care. He reached out to my son and gave him an experience I doubt he’ll ever forget. I know I won’t forget. Thank you, Jim Lichtenstein!
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