An Oblong Moon and Courage: 9-18-11

A Revelation of Relief: Driving home from Ridgefield after dropping our daughter off following the movie “The Help” I saw this oblong moon in the sky. It was formed by an unusual arrangement of clouds framing its intense orb. Folks clearly had their first Fall fires burning in fireplaces and the car registered 50 degrees Fahrenheit for the outside temp. It felt like Halloween and a rush of thoughts about holidays to come filled my pensive mind. Wow, this season would be very different from the previous five. Halloween was a great family favorite (though pockmarked with behaviors, resistance and disappointment as well) but during our daughter’s years at boarding school, the family piece went out of the picture. Instead parents weekend at Riverview School was a command performance that included an awesome Halloween dance but also a lot of focus on parent-teacher meetings and “efforting” to ensure that our daughter was getting the educational programming and socialization training that were the obsession and direction of those years. Now I felt a coating of relief over sore nerve endings: no more holiday multi-tasking. Not in that way. The girl lives in the next town and Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas won’t involve eight hour drives, motel stays, intense probes into “How are you being treated here?”, impressing teachers and dorm staff with her “needs”, the inevitable breakdown revealing what was not working and of course, the fear of what will happen when these boarding school years are over. Wow. I mean this. Wow, this particular revelation of change feels exhilarating.

Relief: I thought of Christmas, one day rather than a two-week stay. Of Thanksgiving, one meal rather than a ten-day race to get to dentists, doctors and later, case managers, probate office and visits with potential apartment-mates. So much work is behind us, behind me frankly. Whew. It can happen. It has happened.

A Reminder Provided by The New York Times: To underscore the pleasure in this nocturnal revelation was an article in the Sunday New York Times today on efforts of one family and a special education specialist from Montclair, New Jersey, to move a talented autistic young fellow from the cloistered world of “difference” towards the opportunities of adult productivity and independence, a journey full of hard work, cries for help, loads of obstacles and the muscle and backing of those few angels along the way who make all the difference. Inclusion has many critics but several themes stood out for me in this piece: familiarizing peers with “special” youngsters early in their school experiences makes for a safer journey for that child. I saw that with our child and with others. “Weird” kids don’t seem weird at all when you know them. And secondly that the world of employment is missing out on incredibly talented and dedicated workers when they dismiss the possibility of providing an opening in their work place for special needs teens and adults. (See this article on one Danish company utilizing the talents of autistic adults.)

The Help: Oddly enough, the movie “The Help” spoke to me of the same issue as the article on autism and our family journey parenting special needs, “Difference.” When is the world going to get over “difference?” When are we going to evolve into a species that relies on curiosity and empathy rather than fear and rejection? Whether it is skin color, brain function, or belief, what will it take to embrace rather than shirk? I know this is philosophy and I am not a philosopher. But my goodness. When? My favorite line in the movie occurred when the main character’s mother, a former president of her DAR chapter, said in a moving apology to her daughter for a heartbreaking cowardly act that underscored the evil of their 1960’s Mississippi racist culture, “…courage sometimes skips a generation.” Too many generations! Come on world, let’s get on board.

©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011

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