1. You really can be yourself. We all have our unique and mysterious creative selves. Usually we keep a lot of who we are hidden from the outside world. We are so afraid of what society will think that we forget who we really are deep down and therefore do not express ourselves as we should. Theater provides this outlet for so many of us, in whatever we choose to present it. Autism simply does not have this barrier. They are who they are without thinking about how they may be perceived.
2. It’s ok if we aren’t perfect. In the real world of life we strive for perfection. After all, if we do not perform our jobs correctly how can we be expected to keep our job? We have to pay our bills on time and get the account numbers correct on the first shot. We have to follow and obey rules and laws to a T or we will suffer the consequences of those actions. In theater, there is always room for error. We know that no one is perfect and a line will be missed or rewritten. We know cues can be late. We cough, sneeze and stutter when it isn’t in our line description. And really, that is ok, it happens. Autistics strive to simply do their best. They try and that is what really counts. Many are people pleasers, as my son is, and will strive to make sure he can make you happy. They aren’t putting on an act, they just simply are being what they are, as we should be.
3. Life is about having fun. In the theater it is fun for everyone. The cast enjoys their art and love to perform for the people. The people love to come out and see the variety of shows there are to see. It is a night full of fun for everyone involved. No pressure or expectations really, just enjoying the moment. My son is very in the moment and as a result forced me to be. He just wants to have fun and enjoy his life as it is happening now. He isn’t concerned about what he can do tomorrow, it isn’t here yet. He just wants to play, have fun, and hang out with mommy. Living for the moment, in total truth.
4. Just because we think it is so, doesn’t mean it is. Impressions don’t mean anything in this business. We can think that a show will go a certain way or will be about a certain thing (when going to see one) or that a line will get a laugh. I’ve been in front of audiences who have laughed at the dumbest things that aren’t even remotely funny and those that have been stoic at the times when it really was a hilarious joke or moment. This will pretty much define any moment when living with someone with Autism. Just when you think you’ve got it or you finally understand some weird quirk, you discover that you never really were close.
5. Expect the unexpected. Your opposite drops a line, you get a laugh where one doesn’t belong, someone doesn’t turn off their cell phone, crying babies.... All things that can happen in live theater. Some are more annoying than others.... But they can happen. When you walk out on stage you never really know what to expect on any given night. The same applies to Autism. I experienced this with potty training. I never thought my son would be potty trained at night. We walked down the diaper aisle one day, he saw the diapers next to his pull ups, we went home and he decided that night that he was going to wear his underwear and that was that. I let it go figuring he’d know if he was ready and we’ve never had an accident. More recently, we were driving through the neighborhood and my shy, semi-verbal, non-social child rolled down the window and started talking to some young girls as I stopped at a stop sign. You just never know what to expect.
That’s all my tired brain can think of at the moment. This list will surely be revised as time goes on. :)