Autism rocks. June 19, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: Asperger's syndrome, autism, depression, Lonnie Smith, Survivor Evolution
Our friend Ben was blown away by an article in today’s local paper, the Allentown PA Morning Call (www.mcall.com), “An Autistic Superhero.” It was about a dad who discovered that his severely autistic son was a great artist. He encouraged his son, now 25, and his younger son, who also has autism but is less socially incapacitated by it, to create a series of illustrated ebooks.
The books feature the adventures of an autistic superhero, Survivor, who has the ability to heal, as he battles the evil forces of the League of Diseases, led by Cheeo, whose weapon is depression, and who is adept at targeting Survivor’s weaknesses. They are, of course, skillfully illustrated by severely autistic son Kambel Smith, plotted by dad Lonnie, and vetted for relevance to teens by 17-year-old Kantai, who also gives the characters their names.
I was struck by the tee-shirts the sons were wearing, bearing the name of the series, “Survivor Evolution,” showing an illustration of the headless hero. Presumably he does have a head, but the choice of this particular illustration for the tee-shirt reinforces the inability of people with autism to “read” facial expressions or verbal intonations that would instantly give the rest of us clues to the mood and emotions of the speaker. For the autistic, the head is expendable.
Our friend Ben was very impressed by Lonnie Smith’s brilliant idea to give his kids a way to express themselves and feel good about themselves and their lives. But I was even more impressed, first, because the boys’ mother was nowhere in sight, so presumably Lonnie has been raising them alone, and second, because Lonnie has what was described as a “blood disease” that, the article implied, is fatal and will eventually—and likely sooner rather than later, given that he almost died from it two years ago—leave the boys on their own.
Our friend Ben has a niece and nephew with Asperger’s, the high-functioning form of autism. Silence Dogood’s best friend has a son with Asperger’s. Our next-door neighbor’s son killed himself at just 17 after wrestling with depression; our friend Rob is terrified that his son, who has battled Cheeo for the past seven years, will do the same. I’m betting that you know someone on the autism/Asperger’s spectrum, too, as well as people who battle depression.
Here’s the advice Lonnie Smith has to offer you, if the people who are suffering are your children:
* As you watch your children around the house, keep in mind that those funny, unexpected and cute things they do may be a sign of a knack. [His word for a hidden talent.]
* Expose them to museums, the zoo, parks, learning supply stores, toy stores and any vibrant places that might spark inspiration. Pay close attention. See what catches their interest.
* Once you find a particular skill, it’s your job to find out how it connects to your child’s life. Research online for ways to use that knack constructively. Develop a plan to incorporate it into their lives.
Our friend Ben thinks this is great advice for parents of troubled children. It’s also great advice for any parents. And it’s great advice for all the rest of us as well. Thank you, Lonnie Smith. Please live long and prosper.