Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Reach for the... tissues?

Watching a movie with Chipmunk has always been something of an eye-opening experience into the wonders of autism.

We can’t watch any movie in 3D - for many reasons. Briefly: He won’t wear the glasses. He hates the whole 3D experience - which I guess is kind of understandable for a child who has always had trouble telling the difference between fantasy and reality. (Usual question: “This is a cartoon, right?”). Having giant 3D dinosaurs leaping at you out of the screen is probably not going to reinforce that distinction. Still, at least that saves us some money at the cinema - and he won’t be demanding a 3D telly any time soon!

And then, we come to the weepy movies. You know, the typical Disney fare that always follows the same format...

Carefree : Traumatic Event : Mission to save the world / your best friend / a lost kitten : Happy yet mushy ending that always has everyone sniffling into their popcorn.

Usually, when we get to a traumatic bit (think Mufasa dying in The Lion King) I check him to see if he’s ok. As you do. He’s usually watching it, wide-eyed. After quick reassurance that it’s not real, only pretend, it’ll all be ok in the end he’s fine, and we carry on with the movie.

And that has really been about as much input as he has needed - until now. I never usually bother to check on him after the sad part of the movie, because during the happy-yet-mushy bit at the end he doesn’t seem to pay much attention - being more preoccupied with his snack, or his book, or what we’re having for dinner that night. Sad bits of movies have never made much of an impact. He’ll talk about it, of course - but it’s always been over-analysis without emotion.

So when we watched the Toy Story 3 DVD at the weekend, I really wasn’t worried - despite having heard about the ending making most otherwise sane-minded adults cry like babies.

We watched the movie. All through the toys-in-peril sections he was fine. He didn’t understand why the bear was such a big meanie (not helped by the fact that he is currently so deaf - he’s under an ENT surgeon - that he missed most of the poignant explanation! Nothing else really had an impact.

When it got to the last bit, I was already choking back the tears - as you do! I glanced over at Chipmunk, and he was sitting on the sofa with his Grandpop, apparently perfectly fine. Then, all of a sudden, it started. He was standing up and reaching out for me, bawling his eyes out, tears streaming down his face. At first, we thought he had hurt himself somehow, or wasn’t feeling well. Because, surely, it couldn’t be the movie...could it?

He was snuggled on my lap by the time I got it out of him: What was wrong? “I don’t like this bit, Mummy. It’s really sad.”

I’ll be honest here, I was speechless.

Of course, then came the over-analysing: Why was Andy going away? When would he come back? Where would he live? How old was he? For about the next 2 hours or so! But it was the tears that stayed with me.

I still don’t know what it was about this movie that had such a profound effect on him. Maybe it was because it was toys, rather than other children, he found it easier to identify. Maybe reading the emotion on the face of a toy is easier than reading it on a person. Maybe it was that he could see from Andy’s point of view - made easier by the fact that Andy seems to be something of a sensitive, rather lonely child, lost in the world he occupies with his toys. Maybe I will just never know what it was about this film that got to him.

All I do know, is that there is something very special about this movie - and I will always be grateful to it for the breakthrough.

bubbleboo blogs at The Thought Bubble. She also has a writing blog (The Writer’s Bubble) and is working on the bubblebooPhotography site. In the meantime, you can find her pictures on Flickr.
bubbleboo is a Shutterbug. She can usually be found with her camera glued to her left eye.
She is a Writer. Always working to better her writing, she has just had one of her pieces published in the Tiny Acorns anthology, helping to raise money for the BBC Children in Need Appeal 2010.
She is a Mum. And what could be more important than that?
bubbleboo is a SAHM and carer to her amazing little boy - Chipmunk, age 7 - who is dealing with Asperger’s and various physical limitations.

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