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Why Disney's 'Float' Hit Me Hard as the Mom of an Autistic Son

If you don’t have Disney Plus, download it for the seven-day free trial just to watch the animated short “Float.” It hit me. Hard. So hard that when the big, ugly sob escaped my lips, my dog ran to check on me.

Director Bobby Rubio based the story on his own son, Alex, who is autistic. The only words spoken in the short were words I once uttered out loud to Ryan in a moment of frustration. I remember what Ryan was wearing. I remember what I was wearing. I remember Ryan’s chubby little hand holding James the red engine as I ran past him to my room, falling on my bedroom floor, sobbing uncontrollably. The guilt and shame brought me to my knees.

It happened at Ryan’s older brother’s soccer game. All the younger siblings were playing with a ball in the grass on a beautiful, sunny, fall day. They were passing the ball, running, giggling and just being “normal” kids. My 3-year-old autistic son was melting down from the sun, the wind, and the squeal of the referee’s whistle. This was before we heard the word autism. This was before I was educated. This was before I had support. This was when I was as alone as my son. We got home, me completely frustrated, my son completely relieved that the sensory overloaded soccer field was nowhere on his radar. He was home. He was safe. He was happy.

I was a mess.

And that’s when I said the same words the father in “Float” said to his son. I said the words out loud. To my son. Once. And I learned from those words, just as the father does in “Float.”

Thank you, Bobby Rubio, for reminding all parents of kids who are “different” that we do make mistakes, but in those errors, we find discovery, strength and most importantly, forgiveness. I have shared this story with my son because it’s important for him to know how unaware I was and to ask for his forgiveness for all the moments that I, as a neurotypical parent, have screwed up. He replied, “It’s OK, Mom. You don’t do it anymore.” His forgiveness is all I need.

No matter how many times we have said and done the wrong thing, in the end, we can all let our kids “Float.”

Photo via Disney+.