Tate knows movies. He loves movies. It’s his “thing.” He knows more actors’ names and movie facts than I do, well except for the old classics and musicals. Those oldies are of no value to him, but I love those. So, he is somewhat selective when it comes to his movies. We have tried to get him interested in some of the older Disney movies. We’d love to share some of our favorites and broaden his horizons. He is not usually very receptive. He felt like he was being punished when we asked him to sit through Swiss Family Robinson and Davy Crockett with the family. We asked him to watch Jimmy Stewart in Harvey recently, one of Shawn’s favorite movies. Tate was miserable. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Happiest Millionaire were hits with him though. Television series are the same. He loves the old Scooby Doo series but won’t even watch the first episode of Dark Wing Duck, no matter how many times his older brothers have told him they loved it when they were younger. I got it for him for Xmas a couple of years ago and it is still sealed.
If Tate likes a series of television shows or movies, he will not rest until he owns them all. (If there is one more movie about Shrek or the Ice Age characters, I think I will jump off a cliff. HA) All of his movies must be kept in his room and grouped together for him to feel at peace with the world. He has a plastic set of drawers and a bookshelf that are full but he knows each and every movie very well. Loaning one out, even to a family member is hard for him but he can do it. But, heaven forbid a movie becomes separated from its box or lost. THAT is a crisis, and there will be a melt down. I am not talking about a temper tantrum, or anything that resembles anger. It is anxiety. Lots of anxiety. I have been known on several occasions to go and purchase a duplicate, even knowing that the lost movie will eventually turn up. His worry, pacing, the wringing of hands, the lost sleep, and the constant talk about the missing movie, makes for some very long days. I especially hate to put his teachers through the experience if it is a school day. Teachers have let me know there is not much learning going on unless Tate is anxiety free. It’s almost always worth the $15 or $20 it takes to ease his pain.
It gets even more ridiculous: When we see a movie that gives birth to a sequel, then Tate wants to see the sequel at the same theater we saw the original movie in. We frequent more than one theater, for crying out loud! I don’t know how he remembers where exactly we saw the last movie or why it is even important to him, but these kinds of things matter so much to him. Of course we cannot always comply with his wishes and he does not usually meltdown when his demands are not met about the theater location but he does become somewhat anxious. Using a scale of one to ten, seeing a movie in a theater he does not prefer is a three or four on the anxiety meter, while a lost movie is a nine or ten. A four is manageable but a nine is not. There will be nothing getting done around here if a nine rears its ugly head. No amount of talking or reasoning will do the trick. And time will not heal the wound either. Tate does not soon forget something that is bothering him. A lost or broken item for those of us without autism may be no big deal, but for Tate it is very painful. It doesn’t only apply to movies but because movies mean so much to him, and those DVD’s are somewhat fragile, it has been a problem quite often. Last week Tate's beloved watch stopped. Right. Before. School. I had few options. I left him at school and he was a wreck. He was to go straight from school to bike camp. I knew I could make it to Walmart and back before bike camp began. I did NOT want the progress he was making in bike camp to stall! When I showed up with a working watch at the beginning of bike camp it was like I relieved physical pain for Tate (and his teacher). The teacher he had been with for the ninety minutes before bike camp began told me he had not been able to focus on schoolwork and they had heard about the broken watch over and over. He cannot help it. He really cannot. I know that those of you who live without autism in your household might consider me an enabler or you might be thinking I am spoiling him. I did just admit to being a mother who runs to Walmart for a new watch or movie instead of using natural consequences to teach a lesson. However, I have tried it the “right way.” Remember, I have five children without disabilities so I know how things SHOULD work. You can take almost everything you learn from raising neurotypical kids and throw it out the window when you are handed a child with autism. The same rules do not apply. Tate does not learn much from natural consequences, nor does he have the ability to “let it go” (no Disney Frozen pun intended) when something is bothering him.
Back to the topic of this blog post: Movies. If you asked Tate to name the worst movie ever made, I’m pretty sure he would say, “Annie.” He despises the movie Annie. I do not know why, but he is adamant. He is not a fan. We used to have two versions of the movie on VHS and he probably saw both of them when he was really young. He claims that he hates it because I used to make him watch it over and over. He makes it sound like I tied him in a chair and played it for days. HA. I’m pretty sure that never happened. If I want to tease Tate, I just break out in song, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow.” The last couple of times we have been to a movie theater, we have seen previews for the latest version of Annie. I leaned over and asked Tate if he wanted to see it. He stuttered out, “No, no, no, no, ummmm Mom, you know I don’t like Annie.” Ironically, my brother is playing the role of Daddy Warbucks in the play Annie in his community theater this month. I cannot wait to see it! I asked Tate if he wanted me to get him a ticket. He was sure he was NOT interested. He does like to go to plays though. His oldest sister took him to see The Wizard of Oz last week at an outdoor theater. He loved it. The Wizard of Oz happens to be one of his favorite movies right now. He goes through phases and if he choses a favorite then he watches it over and over. He has several versions and sequels of The Wizard of Oz. Even the Muppets have a version of the movie. The Muppets are another all-time favorite for him. He has a lot of Muppet toys and occasionally lines them all up so they can watch a movie with him.
Tate’s love affair with movies began when he was really young. One of the first television series I remember him obsessing over was Curious George. One of the first movies I remember him being crazy in love with was Mary Poppins. He must have watched it every day for two months. Tate lost most of his language around age twenty-four to thirty months. When he started talking again it was mostly just to echo us or movies or books we had read him. He did not have to see a movie more than once or twice to have much of the dialogue memorized. He would sometimes say things that fit into conversation appropriately and I’d think, “He’s talking to us!” But then one of us would recognize the sentence as a line from a movie he had been watching. At a very young age, he learned to read some words because he memorized them from movie titles. When Tate was three years old, we saw a movie poster that said, “from the makers of Finding Nemo” and Tate read it to me. I remember being excited and thinking, “He’s so smart!” but then, “I’d trade the things like that for some social skills.”
Tate knows the release dates of movies he is interested in seeing or owning far in advance. Last Friday we saw How to Train Your Dragon 2 and he gives it a two thumbs up. Today is the day The Lego Movie will be out on DVD. This is all he can think about and all he has wanted to talk about for days. He keeps telling me he will bike to Walmart to get the movie and I keep telling him that we will be driving in the van. Next up? July 18, Planes: Fire and Rescue. I wonder which theater we saw the original Planes movie at? Tate will remember!