Education About Autism Through Movies

Autism Speaks is the nation’s largest autism advocacy and autism science organization. I follow them on Facebook and Google+. It’s a great resource. They recommended 5 movies about autism that are currently on Netflix. I’ve watched all five, which were all excellent.

1. Sounding the Alarm
2. The Story of Luke
3. Fly Away
4. A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism
5. Dad’s in Heaven with Nixon

Ironically, my husband had already watched The Story of Luke, and said that it was excellent. I watched it, and I agreed. It was the story of an 18-year old, autistic young man that had to move on with his life after his grandmother’s passing. Sounding the Alarm is a documentary that gave alarming figures of the increasing rates of autism diagnoses. In 1975, 1 in 5000 children were diagnosed with autism. Currently, 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism each year. It also profiled lives of children in different age groups on various ranges of the spectrum. Fly Away is the only fictional movie in this group. It tells the story of a single mother and the challenges that she faced raising her severely autistic-16-year-old daughter.

A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism profiles a mother with a severely autistic, 10-year-old son on a quest to gain more information about the disorder. They live in Iceland, and they travel to the United States and Europe to meet with autism experts and advocates. She also meets other families with autistic children. Finally, Dad’s in Heaven with Nixon begins with the examination of an autistic man’s family beginning in the 1920s. His family is interviewed, and he gives his commentary growing up with his family and his life now as an artist.

The reason that I watch these movies is so that I can learn more about autism. There was a time that you rarely heard about it. Now, it’s very prevalent. As discussed in A Mother’s Courage, autism affects boys more…4 boys for every girl have autism! When my son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder last summer, I didn’t want to accept it. Since he was born so premature, I figured he just needed to catch up. As soon as my son turned 2, he started having temper tantrums. I assumed that was normal. His pediatrician had mentioned that it would happen. Then, as time passed, I began to piece together everything that we were being told about his behavior. The repetitive tapping on walls, crying as an only form of communication, and a limited interest in play were signs that something was wrong.

My son began receiving ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy in our home 2 hours per day, five days a week. He also had speech therapy once weekly and occupational therapy twice monthly. Over time, the temper tantrums stopped, and my son enjoyed playing with toys. He was also able to communicate in other ways besides crying and screaming.

Now at 3 1/2, my son still has a speech delay. When he starts back in preschool this a fall, he will continue with speech therapy. He will have a 5-hour day, 5 days weekly. For the summer, he had a 3-hour day, 5 days per week. He has about 20 words in his vocabulary. When he does say words, they are very clear. We are in the process of potty training, which is challenging on some days. Besides limited speech and communication, my son doesn’t have any other major issues. His health is fine. He loves to sing, collect leaves, and is interested in bugs and books. He enjoys playing outside. Today, you don’t find many children that enjoy playing outside. When I was a kid, we stayed outside until dusk.

I’ve heard of some people “beating autism” and going on to be college graduates. I want my son the be one of those people. As a mom, I will make sure that he is equipped with everything that he needs to succeed.


How to Avoid Getting a Divorce

The best way to avoid getting a divorce is not waiting to seek help when things are not going well.  In my profession a lot of couples decide to come in for counseling as a last resort.  It should be the first.  It is difficult to help a marriage if there is so much anger that neither spouse is willing to listen to the other.  There needs to be positive interaction before each can feel safe to share how they are feeling.  If blaming is predominant it is impossible to share because neither spouse is listening.  They are shut down.

Learning to communicate, listen and validate the other person is essential in building safety.  Doing those things are tough if you have not been taught the skills to do them.  I always tell couples you can leave the relationship, but you still take you with you.  You will just take your baggage with you to the next relationship.  Better to stay and try and work it out.

The DNA of Relationships, by Gary Smalley, is a great book that identifies ways to build a strong marriage. We all have core fears and we react to those fears when we are triggered by events or people.  If we grew up in an unsafe environment then we will view our relationship with others as unsafe.  It is a subconscious belief that we usually are not even aware that we have. It is destructive and it effects the way we see our world.

Drs. John and Julie Gottman identify the 4 predictors of divorce and calls them “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse”.  They are criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling.  These are all signs of dysfunctional interaction in relationships. If you are experiencing any of these then it is a sign that your marriage is in trouble.  Get some professional help.

If you want to avoid divorce, treat your spouse with love and respect.  Don’t have unrealistic expectations and don’t expect them to make you happy.  They make mistakes and we can’t fall apart every time they let us down.

Good relationships don’t just happen. It takes work to build solid, lasting, secure, and loving marriages. Use the resources available to empower you and your spouse and do the things you need to do to heal your relationship.  It will be worth it.

Vickie Parker, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

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