Hi I am Kathleen, I have an 18 year old son, Justin who is on the Autistic Spectrum. Recently, I went to the theatre on Broadway to see the play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night based on the book by Mark Hammond. My Manager and friend Theresa Edwards and I have forged a bond based on our mutual experience of parenting a child with special needs and she asked me to write my thoughts about this play. First of all, I do not consider this “blog note” a review. However, I consider the play a success based on the fact that It accurately portrays many aspects of a families daily life with a child with special needs.
Christopher is the main character and is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. (A high functioning form of autism in which individuals generally have high IQ ‘s but struggle with social interaction, repetitive behavior and rigidity in thinking- focusing on rules and routine.) Christopher has a lot of sensory problems which make interaction with stimulation in the world very challenging and uncomfortable. People, lights, noise - especially unexpected noises, physical touch and particular colors cause a sensory overload and Christopher shuts down to the point that he will lay down, almost anywhere, into a fetal position and cover his ears and literally “ pass out “ for a time to avoid the stimulation. Watching Christopher caused a flood of emotions for me; gratitude for his accurate portrayal of sensory overload and sadness as my memories were re- awakened to experiences Justin suffered due to too much light, noise, a baby crying etc. etc. If I were to be honest – too many experiences of people around us not being sensitive to Justin dealing with this sensory overload.
The roles of Christopher’s parents shed light on the stress of parenting a child with special needs. Christopher lives with his Father only because his Mom has left because she believes herself incapable of caring for Christopher. Don’t worry, Mom comes back, but not before one has a better sense of the impact parenting Christopher entails and that it has caused the marriage to fail. The sad part is, Christopher is not aware of this fact.
Two times during the play my tears welled up. One when Christopher experiences a sensory overload while on a train and second, when the parents are fighting about issues related to Christopher’s care. I am grateful my marriage has survived the onslaught of issues raised by our son Justin’s arrival to our family unit. Issues such as over-parenting and neglecting our older children and husband or not making more time for my husband and I to have fun together. I have realized that allowing my husband to relate with Justin in his own way and allowing us both to grieve the fact that Justin can never reach his full potential as a human being, are major hurdles that people like us have to face. We have needed to grieve that our lives are forever impacted caring for Justin.
The play ends with both parents finding their way to effectively relate to Christopher and the positive impact it has on him. Christopher experiences his own successes and this created a happy celebration in my heart. This play is a creative means to raise awareness about issues surrounding special needs. Parenting children changes all of us! Parenting special needs children impacts some people in a way that they desire to use their raised awareness to create more and better recourses for children with disabilities.
Sophie’s Run is an example of this. Sophie’s Run is a community event created through the efforts of Jim and Theresa Edwards, (and many others!) which raises money to purchase communication devices for children who are unable to express themselves on their own . I encourage anyone to support this effort and make a positive contribution in your community! The effect this foundation has on the lives of the families it supports is greater than you can understand if you have never walked in their shoes.