Tonight we gathered for a family dinner, and as a get together before Row 4 Autism begins this weekend. “We” being the collective of John and Yvonne’s family, who hail from different parts of the globe – Portugal, Vietnam, China. I am humoured and entertained by the multi-lingual analysis of the NHL playoff game.
Even 6-year-old Lucas has an opinion on the game – “the goalie is out!??!!” he states with giddiness, in reference to the Chicago Blackhawks pulling the goalie with 4 minutes to go, and a not-so-simple 3 goal deficit. If you don’t follow hockey, just know that any game play analysis is endearing and often brutally honest when it comes from little Lucas. Cuteness factor aside, Lucas is doing what many children do – he is celebrating his sameness with those around him. He gets hockey just like his dad, uncles, aunties and grandparents do. Sameness binds us together and reminds us where we belong.
In addition to a sense of belonging contributing to a child’s self-esteem and healthy attachments, “…[belonging} is one of the things that makes life bearable, and it can be tough to look at a binary world and choose against both sides” (Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity). We are often stuck in the binary of “mainstream” children versus children with”autism spectrum disorder (ASD)” (or insert any disability label here) and our current medical model focuses on how to make children who are “different” more like their peers. Those differences are particularly high-lighted when a child is on the autism spectrum. Out of love and hope for our children, we find ways to integrate a child and to erase those differences; we often forget that we can love our differences, shine light on how we are the same, and choose against the “binary” that creates a social hierarchy wherein children with ASD are pushed to adhere to their “mainstream” counterparts. How can we create a world where our similarities are more honoured and our identities are celebrated just as they are?
As I ponder this, the answer comes simply – I watch Brandon, his cousins and siblings on the trampoline. The shared giggles punctuates the unabashed love of play. There are intermittent check-in’s between the kids of “are you okay” when a flailing limb has accidentally found its way to a cousin’s face. There are no time constraints, no medical models, no binaries when you jump to new heights on the backyard trampoline – there is pee-in-your-pants laughter, holding hands and jumping to the sky and back, and moments that makes my adult worries in the last paragraph seem really quite meaningless in contrast.
Amidst the soundtrack of children playing, and the background of the late spring sunset, sits the expedition style kayak in which John will find his own moments come Saturday, May 24. I look forward to sharing those with you… (Ivy Vuu)