I used to be one of those parents who didn’t let her child go to the movies or watch tv, except in special, tightly controlled circumstances.
Sometimes, that was called for. Some things are upsetting or work our kids up unnecessarily. Plus, movie ads were overwhelming my son, causing him to tightly close his eyes and curl up in a ball.
And then I discovered the cultural networking that goes on in elementary schools. A lot of kids out there are watching movies. The same movies. Current movies are a big deal. I had no clue.
It took a child’s Disney-type magazine subscription – which we got for free – to open my eyes to the way the elementary age child was thinking about movies and tv. My son read it, as he reads just about anything he can get his hands on, and enjoyed the cartoonish-ness of it.
The next day, he came home, talking about what a great conversation he had with some kids about the movies in the magazine. My son. Talking with other kids. Conversing, no less.
It was earth-shattering.
Looking back on it, I realize now what a little bubble we were living in, cut off from what was happening in the normal elementary school social world. Our world was made up of our interests; my husband’s, mine, and my son’s.
Access to current movies and tv had given my son a key to unlock a conversational door.
Now, when I hear him mention a tv show, cartoon, or movie, I ask him if he would like to see it. The answer is usually no. But sometimes, if his friends have piqued his interest, he’ll say yes, and then have another thing (outside of whatever his Topic of interest is at the moment) to talk about. He’s even made new friends over something as inconsequential as a Star Wars t-shirt logo or overhearing and then joining a conversation about Indiana Jones.
I know that I can’t impede his social progress by refusing access to everything out there.
Do I want to protect my son from violent and disturbing movies? Of course. Do I want him to be able to converse with other boys? Absolutely. So far, we haven’t had to compromise. And our son isn’t a movie zombie or a couch potato.
Linking movies and socializing together, as if they are new things, sounds so silly, doesn’t it? Every day, we talk about current events, sports events, movies, tv, and so forth to co-workers and friends. It’s so ingrained we don’t even think about it anymore.
But that’s pretty much typical of everything outside of our Asperger world. We take for granted eye contact, greetings, returned smiles, recognizing facial expressions, understanding gestures, sarcasm and subtlety… and the list goes on.
People don’t flock to our children, and often avoid them, not understanding their difficulties or seeing the golden hearts hidden within them. If I can give him the key – just an opportunity, not a guarantee – to a conversation, that may be all he needs to make a new friend. Or two. Or more.