Recently we've been able to do something I've been wanting to do, thanks to the acquisition of some technology, namely a DVD recorder and (finally!!) high speed Internet. My eldest son's technical advice, as always, was invaluable as well. I spent the last few weeks copying old VHS tapes onto DVD and, in the process, reliving my children's early childhood. I had a box of "home movies" I had wanted to copy as well as a box of "Alex & Autism" videos that contained footage of Alex at home and at school as well as autism related TV shows & movies. It sure brought back memories!!
So, after a couple of weeks of copying, I turned to taking some of the more classic Alex clips and converting them to upload to YouTube (those under 10 minutes) and Vimeo (those over 10 minutes). These clips cover Alex's life from when he was 1 year old up to his High School graduation (and join the more recent videos that were there from his Tip-to-Tip Run). There is video from home, from school and from the community (like a birthday party at the bowling alley and another at McDonalds). There is a video made for CBC on Inclusion in PEI schools that features Alex's class when he was in grade 8 and the 3 "special needs" kids in that class. There are a number of videos that illustrate his early literacy skills and love for word books. Others show his early typing, both independently and with various amounts of assistance, both in the classroom and at home doing homework. There are videos that I think many parents of autistic kids will recognize their own child's behaviour in - toe walking, spinning, covering his ears, not responding to his name, echolalia, rewinding the VCR over & over...There are 4 school Christmas concerts, and highlights from The Great Island Kids contest gala when he got his "Against The Odds" runner up award as well as highlights from his High School graduation; his receiving his diploma and awards for highest marks in a couple of courses and an Application prize in another. There is one showing how he learned to talk when he was 6 - a reenactment of the actual event about 2 weeks after it happened (It's on YouTube in 2 parts).
I do have a couple of favourites; one is of Alex, totally in his element, watching The RoadRunner show when he was 6 (is it any wonder he grew up to be a RoadRunner?!). The other is from Christmas day when Alex was 5 and although his spoken vocabulary at the time was only 3 words ("no", "oh-no" and "bye") he decided, on a couple of occasions, to go out and "sing" Christmas Carols on our doorstep.
Currently there are 67 videos on YouTube, from a few seconds to about 10 minutes long and 5 longer ones on Vimeo. Likely there will be more. They do not tell the whole story, there's a lot that's not there. For instance I have remarkably few temper tantrums on video and little if any SIB - these are not the kinds of things I would have wanted to record for posterity, it's not the case that they didn't happen (but if you watch them all you will see a tantrum or two and you'll hear plenty of screaming). It is my hope that these videos will help illustrate a few things about the realities of autism. Things like -
- Autism is not a static condition: autism at 2 looks a lot different than autism at 7 and at 13 and at 18.
- A child with a 3 word spoken vocabulary at 6 can know an awful lot more than he is able to tell you.
- Communication is far more than speech
- Given a chance, the same chance his peers are given, with accommodations to his needs, an autistic child can grow and learn and succeed.
- Inclusion *can* work and work well.
- An austistic who did not receive ABA or IBI (or any other intensive or behaviour based intervention) can graduate, (with honours, prizes), and with great self esteem, from high school.
- Acceptance, and assuming competence, can take an autistic child a very long way.
- "Acceptance" does not mean "doing nothing"