The great movie debate

Some days in the life of a parent are tougher than others.

That’s true for everyone that has the monumental task of raising a child, and it’s no less true for parents for children with Autism.

Thus begins the story of the great movie incident, starring “the boy” Ethan Capps.

It’s September, and third grade – most of which is being spent in a “normal” class room – is going pretty well.

We’re having a hiccup here and there, like the day the boy decided to tell a classmate that “I’m a serial killer,” because the other child had the nerve to stand behind Sarah in line.

Not exactly what you want out of your eight year old, but we wrote it off as an isolated incident.

Perhaps we should have seen the writing on the wall.

You see, the boy loves movies.

The serial killer phrase was lifted from the Sherlock Holmes movie, a flick that’s probably above his maturity level. I let him “borrow” my copy, mainly because I am a huge fan of the consulting detective, and have been since childhood.

We removed the offending movie from his continuously expanding collection, and moved on.

Move ahead a couple of weeks, and the game was truly afoot.

It’s a Monday night after another good day, and the bride and I were watching TV in the living room while the boy did likewise in our bedroom, home of the DVR.

All of a sudden, we hear a shout from the bedroom.

“This was the worst Monday ever!”

The wife goes to investigate, and in the interest of shortening a story that’s already running too long, let’s just say that he accused a little boy at school of bullying him.

I was a little suspicious, considering that the AWFUL MOVIE I caught him watching seem to be depicting a bullying scene, but he sounded convincing enough.

It was a bad feeling. I remember what it’s like to be in school. Bullying, no matter how diligent teachers and administrators may be, happens. It happens to kids that are different. It will, I’m sure, eventually happen to Ethan.

I just wasn’t expecting it in third grade.

So, we fire off e-mails to teachers and raise the general alarm.

Shanna and I mope around the house that night, and all the next day, powerless to protect our little angel from the mean kids at his school.

Yeah, about that.

Turns out we had been scammed.

His teachers, wonderful folks, by the way, report that, if anything, Ethan is picking on his computer partner – not the other way around as described.

A closer review of that movie he was watching, Fred: The Movie, reveals a scene almost exactly like the one Ethan acted out for us.

In addition, he took a scene from Agent Cody Banks and acted it out on the playground. He told a teacher he had “slapped somebody,” only to have evidence reveal that he made that up as well.

Then, it hit us. Ethan’s obsession with movies had finally reached the point where he was having trouble separating the fiction from fact.

So, at a loss for what to do, we took a bag and filled it with any movie in his room that was event remotely objectionable.

There were dozens of them.

That’s been about a week, and he’s still not real happy with us.

It’s tough, because I’m forced to admit that without movies and TV, he may not be talking at all.

I’m convinced that Steve from Blue’s Clues and The Wiggles taught him to speak, which might explain his occasional lapses into an Australian accent.

Finding a balance within the medium that both accelerates and stunts his development is challenging. But it’s one that we can handle.

Shanna and I are lucky. We have a good support system in place at school, an amazing doctor (can’t wait for Thursday’s advice) and a toolbox full of tricks that we’ve picked up while keeping the effects of Autism at arm’s length.

This didn’t happen automagically, as Biz Markie might say. It happened slowly, and with plenty of help from organizations like the Autism Society of North Carolina.

The 2010 Triangle Run/Walk for Autism is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 9, in Raleigh.

Please consider making a donation to Ethan’s Angels, the group Shanna, Ethan and I – along with friends and family – in which we’ll be walking.

That way, you can make sure the script for kids like Ethan has a happy ending!


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