Monday, May 3, 2010

The Hero's Journey: Autism and Your Child

I decided to add this blog to all my reposting. While we as parents fret everyday how to make our children understand and help them conquer their disability, sometimes I think we may need to remember how brave they truly are.

I happen to love the movie Troy. Apart from the fact that I am an amateur ancient historian, well at least in my own mind, I love how the story is a play on Homer’s Iliad. In this film epic the author tried to make historical reality out of ancient mythology. I have always believed that all myth is based upon a historical happening. That over time the facts of the situation get retold and retold until it is later written down in a form that no one recognizes as part of the original tale. But is a fanciful version of epic proportions replete with old wives tales, vast armies, and of course the damsel who is the cause or catalyst to the event. Whether it’s a forbidden love, as Helen and Paris, the strength of two great warriors, Hector and Achilles, the might of two nations, Mycenae and Troy or the intervention of some miscreant Gods, mythology has a way of seeping into the culture and leaving an imprint upon the human psyche. It is what has made us who we are today. It has shaped how we look at the world and bow we interact with one another.

You can take this mythology to its modern form, in the Star Wars Saga. Whether it is the forbidden love, Padme and Anakin, the might of two great armies, the Empire and the Rebels, the strength of two great warriors, Anakin and Obi-Wan and the intervention of evil Gods, the Sith, our modern mythology continues to shape us and define us as a people. It brings forth the notion of good versus evil, of right versus wrong. It embodies the concept of chivalry and charity and all that mankind so desperately wants to make right. It is above all the story in every generation of the need to find answers to those eternal questions that have never been answered; why are we here? What is our purpose? How are we to deal with the reality? When will it change for the better? Where did we go wrong or right?

The philosophers call it the hero’s journey. How the one charged with the survival and savior of mankind reacts to the events around him. How that individual handles the unseen and dangerous relationships between the real and the unreal. How they accept the inevitable and fight for what is right and good and pure in the world. That as the hero develops a true understanding of his purpose, he begins to understand himself. The hero begins to understand why he was sent on the journey, what he was supposed to accomplish, how he was supposed to accomplish his task, when will there be a positive outcome and where his mistakes were. All these answers lead to the conclusion and the development of the hero’s soul. It makes him who he is supposed to ultimately be.

I think the reason these questions truly burn in my subconscious is because these are questions I ask myself everyday as the parent of two special needs children. I know that I never really write about that. That collegeman and highschoolboy are special needs persons, but they are. It’s actually quite funny I guess that I live my life generally ignoring that term in relationship to them, as I work every day to secure for them the future of their choice. I just do what I have to do as all parents of special needs children do. We deal with the hand that we are given. Sometimes with more success than at other times, but always with our heart in the action. Always with our goal being the benefit and betterment of life for our children. Yet, I wonder what are the answers to our questions?

Why? For what purpose and end? What is the point of this disability autism? One would think that to have such a disability there has to be an overarching reason and good that may come out of it for humanity. To tell you the truth I have not found any. I cannot see what good it does anyone. Oh sure, they say that the upside of autism is the rare genius that changes the course of human history. They add to society the great leaps and bounds that have taken us through the millennium. Many of these geniuses forever unnamed and unknown. Personally I think the world can do without the great leaps and should just plod along and leave my children alone.

Is it the down side of evolution that there are these great catastrophes in our genetic make-up? For more persons are diagnosed with autism than people have HIV, cancer, or any other illness or disability. So to what end. Is the human race taking an evolutionary leap forward at the expense of our children? Is society embarking on a great social understanding or philosophical period at the expense of our children? Is this the beginning of a new renaissance or scientific era through which our children are the catalyst?

I so much do not care. I do not care that mankind needs new understanding and a new era of philosophy. Not at the expense of my children and their future. I am tired of them being the experiment. I am tired of them being the catalyst for teaching better understanding and compassion within society. I am tired of them having to play the role of hero in a drama not of their choosing. They are neither Hector, nor Achilles, nor Luke Skywalker, nor Obi-Wan. They are just children. Thrust into a world not of their choosing, forced to play the role of hero in a world that neither recognizes their heroism nor their perseverance in the face of adversity.

They say heroes are not born but made. That a hero is someone who faces their fear and their mortality to do what others will not do. A hero is someone who succeeds in the face of failure and in the face of great adversity and fearful odds. A hero is made not born they say. But my children were born, for whatever reason with their autism and their battle laid out before them. They did not have a choice, unlike Achilles, Hector, Obi-Wan, and Skywalker to enter their journey. Life gave my boys no choice. Yet like the great heroes of history, myth and legend they stand ready to fight for their day, their future and their right to just be.

They don’t know it, but their hero’s journey is also just beginning. They will live their lives, and fight every step of the way. Theirs will be an unsung hero’s journey. The only consolation I have is that their journey will hopefully make it easier for those that come after them. Their hard won battles will teach those around them the importance of acceptance and compassion. If they are the catalyst for a better society then may their journey be fruitful and fulfilled. Too often our heroes figure out their purpose too late to save themselves. Luckily for the boys their heroes’ journey has the ability to end up more like Luke Skywalker, whose ultimate journey leads to the understanding of his purpose, rather than Hector, Achilles or Obi-Wan who in many ways learned their lessons too late.

Yes, I am proud of my boys. This they know. What they don’t know is that they are also my heroes. Someday I will explain it to them, but not today. Today, they need to clean their rooms.



Until next time,



Elise