Today’s posts, of which this is the second, tell affinity stories from the perspective of parents. Life, Animated, of course, is one such story. We are interested in parent-told stories because in many cases parents are first to notice an affinity, and their positive response to it can be a boon to their child (though by no means are affinities a panacea.) Ultimately, we hope to gather affinity stories from the perspective of those on the autism spectrum themselves, stories which will offer a unique perspective, but today– and in our Autism Affinities Poll— we are taking time to listen to and to honor the work of parents.
This story comes from Rachella, mother of Yonatan, in Israel.
This is a story, not a video or work of art.
Before I describe the actual incident – a few background facts:
Yonatan, our autistic 14 years old son, is non-verbal. We have been trying to work with him, very slowly, on writing, to help him express his thoughts and feelings, when pictures are not enough (or too reductive).
He has a wonderful teacher who comes and works with him on communication skills (and I, his mother, always sit with them). I should also state that although his language is passive, it is obvious that Yonatan is bilingual – he lives in Hebrew but understands English very well. Yonatan’s affinity has always been Sesame Street and especially Elmo, but lately he has shown us he is very drawn to other stuff.
And now our story begins:
Yonatan came into a recent session with Tomi (his teacher) babbling a lot. He was very hyper (he is also diagnosed with severe ADHD). Among the things he was babbling were a few syllables he repeated a lot: : Ata-y, ata-y, he said again and again.
“We know you are trying to say something but we can’t understand,” both Tomi and I said to him.
Then we started writing, and Yonatan wrote a few letters that were not coherent to us. And then he wrote in Hebrew the letters that make up the same strange combination: Ata-y.
Tomi said: “You are writing what you are saying, but we are still not sure what it means.” And then she said – “maybe it’s English?” And we were both saying it out loud, “trying” the sounds: “ata-y, ata-y”.
And that’s when it hit me, and I said out loud, straight to Yoantan’s face: “But Why! But Why! I think that is what you are saying – But WHY? From Matilda!”
And Yonatan smiled and looked at me with those smart, warm, brown eyes of his, acknowledging that I guessed right.
And I started singing to him although I did not remember the exact words, and I also explained to Tomi this is a CD (Matilda, the musical) we have been listening to a lot in the car lately, and in this particular and very powerful song the big kids sing to the little kids about how terrible school is and how they should be careful, and towards the end of the song, a little kid asks: “But WHY?” and the big kid answers angrily: “BUT WHY? Haven’t you heard what he said??”
So Tomi asked me if I had the words of the song, and I said – they are printed in the programme I brought from London. And I went and got it and I started reading:
So you think you’re able
To survive this mess by being a Prince or a Princess
You will soon see
There’s no escaping tragedy
If you put in heaps of effort
You’re just wasting energy
‘Cause your life as you know it is ancient history
I, have suffered in this jail
I’ve been trapped inside this cage for ages
This living hell …
We looked at Yonatan who was suddenly much calmer then before and we looked at each other, and with tears in our eyes we thanked Yonatan for making us understand how he was feeling.
And in the end Tomi said, referring to Life, Animated: “You understand this was a Disney moment, don’t you?”
So I thought I should write to you and share this with the Life, Animated community, because if anyone would understand what that moment meant to us, it is all the people who have wished for and hopefully experienced a moment like that.
Thank you for listening,
Rachella (Yonatan’s mother)