When my son was younger, the movie theater was just too intense for him.
The screen was huge, the noise piercing, and the action so very intense. And, of course, the previews capture the most action-packed, exciting parts of the movies, so he’d end up huddled on his chair, hands clapped over his ears, eyes squeezed shut, completely overwhelmed before the movie even started.
There’s nothing quite like the movie experience, is there?
I’d known, of course, that movies were hard on my husband. He completely refused to attend them on a Friday or Saturday night. Often, if he really wanted to see a movie in the theater, he’d plan it for his day off, a rainy day, or late on a Tuesday or Wednesday night.
But he loved the theater experience. It was the people who got to him.
For my son, it was a different story. His senses – sight, hearing – just couldn’t handle the assault.
Since these same senses, in addition to an extreme sensitivity to touch, were causing him to shut out the world and turn inward all of the time, this was a big deal. We had to help him learn to cope, or he wasn’t going to have a normal life.
We’d already been told, of course, that he couldn’t handle school. That he could no longer be considered “mainstream,” and that he’d have to attend a different school the next year.
Here’s where my son turned around.
To this day, I don’t know for sure whether it was all of our help, various therapies, or whether his brain was just plain ready. For all I know, he needed a combination of the three. I think it’s impossible to know these things sometimes.
In the fifth grade, he opened up to the world around him to an extent we hadn’t seen before. He heard his name when teachers called on him. He noticed his surroundings, not as often or to the extent as other children, but he noticed them.
It was an amazing time.
And he was able to attend a normal school. Oh, he had issues; of course he did. About half his teachers loved him and the other half complained and couldn’t wait to get rid of him. Of course, none of them had seen him the year before, so how could they have known how far he’d come? Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond current challenges to the wow! of progress.
Sixth grade brought even more growth and change. He made actual friends for the first time, and noticed things in his environment that even I didn’t see. His eyes changed from dull and unfocused to sharp and intelligent.
So yesterday, when we went with the grandparents to see the last Harry Potter movie – in the theater – it felt wonderful, like an affirmation of all the progress we’ve worked so hard for. A complete turnaround from overwhelmed and shut down to alert and eager participant.
We even sat through all the ads and previews. And he still loved it.
We don’t always take the time to remember the progress. Sometimes, it’s hard to rise above today’s frustration and issues to see the growth that’s occurred, the tremendous strides that have been made.
But yesterday, sitting in that freezing movie theater next to my son, it was lovely to remember and savor the moment. To feel the pride and wonder at how far we’ve come.
Oh, yes, and the movie was fun, too. 😉