When My Son on the Autism Spectrum Performed On Stage
What a glorious night!
We were at the theater, an older, slightly worn but very classy one near our city’s downtown. The lights went down. The story and music began and I was as entranced as I could be. In my opinion “Beauty and the Beast” has always been one of the best Disney movies ever. It’s a story in which more than one character is transformed by the events of the story and by love.
By the end of the show, when the cast took their curtain calls, cleared the sets and headed for IHOP to ride the wave of adrenaline, I was riding it with them.
It reminded me of the line from My Fair Lady: “I could have danced all night, and still have begged for more…I’ll never know what made me so excited, why all at once my heart took flight!”
Well, unlike Eliza Doolittle, I knew exactly why I was so excited.
My child on the autism spectrum was on the stage, acting, dancing and singing.
In those few hours, amidst the emotions that flooded me, I felt hope.
Before my eyes, after 10 years, our lives were changing.
I wouldn’t have believed it, even a few years before. My life centered around what my son could handle and the number of triggers he could cope with per day.
Our life together was relatively simple, with few outside activities because we could only handle so much stress.
Some things I felt he had to do — like occupational therapy — and we set up a reward program to motivate him.
He went to a STEM class, which was OK because he liked the science topics and because I was with him. He struggled with group activities and needed supports in social situations.
He went to church with us because it was non-negotiable for me, but we modified our time there for him. Most of the time he didn’t participate in the children’s program because it was overwhelming for him. Instead, we drove two cars so my husband and I could take turns staying longer to visit or serve, while the other parent took our son and our other children home.
When we visited friends, he did fine. When they came to our home, those times were usually fun and enjoyable, even if we dealt with an occasional meltdown.
Visiting with other moms while kids played was not an option for me; my son needed my ongoing support.
There were months and years when I did not imagine my life looking different. We homeschooled and we stayed home most of the time because that is what was best for my son.
But there he was on the stage.
All because a teen theater group’s director was willing to include him. All because the environment was one of respect, care, professionalism and mutual growth.
All because God does amazing things.
Editor’s note: This story has been published with permission from the author’s son.
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