“All this has happened before, and it will all happen again. But this time it happened in London. It happened on a quiet street in Bloomsbury. That corner house over there is the home of the Darling family. And Peter Pan chose this particular house because there were people here who believed in him (Peter Pan 1953).”
The third and final part of childhood and sometimes the hardest one to believe in, friendship. From my own experience this was toughest part of childhood as it is for many other people on the spectrum. Many parents including my own often believed that we do prefer to play alone because we seem less stressed then when we are around other kids. Someone once told me that Autism means the alone self when you break down into the Greek meaning of the word. I just looked it up and it actually means self or isolated self. I will be first say we need a different name for this, but that is topic for another blog. What does this mean? That people with autism are actually very social people, but trapped inside our heads. Behind our eyes there is whole universe going on back there. What are we waiting for then? We are waiting for someone to believe that world we see is real. For any child this usually comes by the friends that we make as children. Then why does people with Autism seem to isolate ourselves from others?
What is Peter Pan afraid of? He is afraid of growing old and dying thus we see his flight Neverland to run away from his fear. A wise teacher Neale Donald Walsch recently taught me that all actions are controlled by two emotions love and fear. What Peter chose was fear and he stayed a child forever. Until the movie Hook comes along and he discovers two things as the adult Peter Pan, “Prepare to Die, Peter. Said Hook. Peter: “To dye would be a great adventure” (Hook 1991). Hook gave Peter a death sentence here, but Peter choose look at this as a positive. Thus Peter pan conquers his fear of death in these moments. What is even bigger is that Peter choose to love the experiences that life had given him. A person needs to overcome why he or she fears to interact with other people. My fear was that I forget all the social cues of a conversation. Letting go of these fears lifted such heavy burdens off my shoulders. Granny Wendy: “So... your adventures are over.” Peter Banning: “Oh, no. To live... to live would be an awfully big adventure” (Hook 1991).
“If you don’t believe your Peter Pan, you can’t be Peter Pan” (Hook 1991). What I have learned is that you have to imagine the friend you want to have and then become that very person. “What we project onto others is a reflection of who we are.” So in other words, what you project the best version of yourself and then you will attract people who are similar. What is important for your child to understand here is that this is how you find out if you something in common with another person. For example if you see a person wearing an Eagles jersey and you like the Eagles then there is something for you to talk about. This is what I call on-the-surface-relationships. Where you know all the casual parts of person are like their favorite: color, movie, and activities. I believe that often ASD individuals do not go past this level because we not taught by our own nature or man to do so. I think it needs to be taught to people on the spectrum in order to get to this next level of human relationships. What do I mean by that? I am talking about emotions and they relate to things you have in common with another person. For example: If you both love the Eagles and hate the Cowboys, you not only have shared one emotion, but two of them! So what is stopping people from spectrum making this next leap?
Hate is what linked to Peter’s fear of death and the choice he made with it, which was run away from it. What does Peter really hate when it comes to Captain James Hook? I believe that it is he reminds Peter of what he fears the most, which growing up (visa versa Hook envies Peter’s youth) thus the two are always met in conflict. Who shares this feeling with Peter? This is a thought every child in history has had at one time or another, which in the story are represented by Peter’s Lost Boys. It is not until the ending of all Peter Pan movies, that Peter finally confronts his fear that calls itself Hook! What I am trying say here is that there a little Peter Pan in all of us, our inner child, the state of being that brings us the utmost joy. There are others out there with similar life passions that you are going meet throughout your life. From hatching a plot to distract the adults, while a friend steals a few cookies to being there for your friend or love one when someone passes away. What are people on the spectrum running away from? Being themselves in front of friends and loved ones because we are afraid you will hate us for some reason.
How did I get to experience all this? Well first it goes back to what I was talking about on-the-surface relationships and I remember when I realized that they exist. It was when of the first few times I told my wife that I love her when we were dating and she said “Sam do you even know me?” I rattled off a number things we have in common and she was no like you have never asked me any questions about my past and how I came to be this person, who I really am. I was stunned, dumbfounded no one ever pointed this out to me. So from that moment I started asking her every question under the sun and how she formed all her values, beliefs, and being. This is where the real love came into our relationship and it led to where our life is now, where we have a son and a home. Peter Pan gives Wendy a gift and she in turns gives him one because he simply does not know what a kiss is. In the movie Hook, it was not until he gave that gift back to Wendy’s granddaughter i.e. “the new Wendy” that everything changes for him. What he is doing is giving back the love he received, which is a big challenge for many people on the spectrum.
What is so challenging about expressing your feelings for another whom you love like a parent, friend, or partner? Well it’s like we do reverse psychology on ourselves in that we get stuck on the details of subject thus taking us a longer time to form our own opinions. For example: While we are taking the time to decide if we want go one pizza store or another, other people will start forming opinions about us, but we often struggle with being aware of this fact at first. We may think “Oh my god what if I piss off this person by buying mushroom pizza instead of pineapple pizza then this will lead to him not wanting to be my friend anymore? What if this shows that I do not care about our friendship?” We will spend hours obsessing over variations of these questions. When in reality this friend is just getting a little impatient with me for taking forever decide, but he will forget about it and we will be eat this pizza. This is the long process our minds go through before making a choice, it is exhausting!! How do parents make this choice easier for their ASD child? Through the method that we parents have been using forever play and storytelling. If you can make what your child is trying to learn into a game or a reward for doing a task then you will open so many doors of communication for your child.