April 2, 2011

World Autism Day- Free To Be You and Me

Posted in My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:28 am by autismmommytherapist

“Justin, for the love of God, PLEASE SIT DOWN!” I implore my almost eight-year-old, as he thrusts his body through the narrow space between the front seats of our SUV, desperately trying to free Sheryl Crow from her imprisonment in our car’s player. We’re leaving for speech therapy ten minutes late as it is because his school bus was delayed, and I’m irritated by the thought of the impending traffic I know we’ll soon encounter. I’m really not in the mood for this OCD ritual today, the current “compact disc musical chairs” that has replaced shoe/toy/DVD rotation in his devotions. I’m especially chagrined because I’ve trained him to like MY music, allowed him to pick from a carefully selected musical portfolio prior to every trip, and none of these choices has ever encompassed children’s tunes.

Now that this new obsession has begun every CD in the house is a target, and unfortunately some songs from long ago have come back into play. I finally cajole/coerce him back into his own spot, manage to shove his hands clutching fistfuls of circular disks through the slotted holes of his harness, and rush back to the driver’s seat. Before we exit the driveway I reach back and say “Give me what you’ve got, Justin”, and as our fingertips brush briefly against one another I feel the cool, pliant plastic of his selection slip into my hand. If there’s any justice in the universe, it will neither be the Wiggles, nor Barney.

Thankfully, it’s “Free to Be, You and Me”. If he’s going to torture me with kids’ songs, at least he possesses good taste.

I smile as I insert his choice into the yawning maw of the DVD player, because these melodies summon pleasant childhood memories for me, hours spent in my room hiding from my little brother, afternoons playing with my dollhouse and grooving to vinyl. I’ve always thought of “Free to Be, You and Me” as the musical equivalent of the literary phenomenon “Everything You Ever Needed to Know You Learned in Kindergarten”, with its magical messages of tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion. I remember my mother telling me what a big hit it was at the time, particularly as it was introduced during an era of “peace, love and happiness”. I have to grin as I listen to the soothing baritone of Alan Alda reminding us it’s okay for boys to play with dolls, followed by the dulcet notes of Marlo Thomas imparting her message that girls must break free of stereotypes, and follow their own non-scripted dreams. There are other fundamental lessons imbued into these lyrics, monumental concepts such as crying is okay even if you’re male, we all deserve respect no matter what our skin tones, and one remaining especially current in today’s world, don’t believe everything you’re told on television.

Reality TV has made the latter particularly relevant (yes, I mean you, Rock of Love’s Brett Michaels).

We manage to make it through lights that usually halt us in our tracks, and as I check the time I realize we might only arrive a few minutes later than our intended hour. Justin is rocking out in the backseat to Don’t Dress Your Cat in an Apron, and I ponder how far we’ve evolved since this musical melange’s initial debut, how much kinder the world has become, and yet how far we still must strive to go. Since this record’s release I’ve witnessed gay military personnel win the opportunity for disclosure, as well as the right to celebrate the ritual of permanent union in many states. I’ve watched women not only destroy but redefine the concept of  the “ceiling”, as they’ve attained the highest positions both in business, and in government. Men have begun to take their wives’ names, as well as their traditional roles as caretakers of children. Finally, two years ago I sat with hot cocoa in hand, forced the boys to snuggle next to me, and reveled in the beauty of a man of color finally ascending to the most elevated office in the land.

There’s still so far for all of these groups to go, barriers yet to transcend, prejudices to puncture and dismiss. We’re certainly not completely the “land of the free”, just yet. But I do believe we’re getting there. And I think for those of us who raise children considered unique, special, differently-abled, now it might just be their turn, their time for the earth’s attention.

Their turn to have their differences celebrated, not denigrated.

Their turn to be treated with compassion, to consider kindness as their norm.

Their turn to shatter stereotypes, to be regarded as men and women, boys and girls, with gifts to share to a far more gracious world.

Their turn for free to be, you and me.

There’s a land that I see, where the children are free

And I say it ain’t far to this land from where you are

Take my hand, come along, where the children are free

Come with me, take my hand, and we’ll live

In a land where the river runs free

In a land through the green country

In a land with a shining sea

And you and me are free to be,

You and me.

It’s our Fourth Annual World Autism Awareness Day!!!

Don’t forget to turn your porch lights blue tonight!!!




  1. misifusa said,

    Happy World Autism Day! May blue lights shine everywhere!

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