Updated: May 16, 2021
Today has been tough. It was the day that brought all the niggles together and produced a moment of clarity, a flicker of light, illuminating what we were struggling to see. However, these moments of clarity are rarely a good thing, they are often a realisation that we are exhausted. Exhausted because J has to work so much harder than everyone else to get to nearly the same place.
I found myself telling my autistic child that he needs to put his feelings on the outside to allow people to see them, to become an extrovert rather than an introvert. To show enthusiasm outwardly to a point that he finds uncomfortable, just so he fits in. And because of this I feel bad. All of the years of teaching him that he doesn’t need to mask to fit in and I have just undone this all in one go. Why? Because we so desperately want him to succeed in his passion. Because when he is on that stage he lights it up with his natural ability, because to be a performer is what he wants.
When talking to other parents about their disabled children and theatre they told me of all that their experiences as the industry recognised the struggle.From the storied told, they deserved all of this and more as their struggle was real. The difference? This disability is visible.
We have yet again reached a stage where we need to do even more to jump to the next step. J needs to learn how to improvise. Is this something that can be taught? Is there someone out there that can do this? I ask because us typical humans learn it intuitively so therefore it wouldn’t be a focal point of learning but rather an expectation of growth and development. And yet we find ourselves again feeling the need to teach J something that is unnatural to him but is seen as a necessary skill to put him on a level playing field.
We spoke to J tonight about this quandary and he said he understood. He said that he knows he has to act over enthusiastically and learn the art of improvisation to progress further and he is willing to do this because performing means so much to him. J is the one making the adjustments and that’s what makes us incredibly proud of him, yet sad at the same time as he is hardly ever afforded the same courtesy.
The solution is awareness and acceptance but I’m not sure how this is ever truly achieved without sticking him in the lime light as an example. An autistic performer (and the rest of the triple A) is what he is and that of course will always be the case but do we have to be so brash about it to get his needs recognised and supported in the industry?
This moment in time has been born from frustration and like every other moment, it will fade away. J will push himself to the next stage and it will be one more step towards conformity.