Saturday, September 15, 2012

Horseboy- Fatherhood, autism and shamanism

Long ago I had a five year old boy in my home. My partner, his mother, was a marvel of love and patience when it came to those "moments," and I learned a great deal from her.
Many a parent knows something about the sheer volcanic force of a temper tantrum wherein a young body can morph into a whirlwind of emotion and like a volcano spew forth words and sounds that can penetrate one's very soul and undermine even a saint's composure.

What if that were the primary experience of a child, hour by hour, day after day after day? What then?
It's not easy to comprehend the kind of volatility and unpredictability of behavior in some children with autism. And the incredible suffering of the child.

Recently viewing the 2009 movie, Horseboy, gave me an entirely different view of parenthood from the inside perspective of those who have been there and continue to be at the frontline of adversity in coping with this strange multi-spectrum condition in our culture we call autism.

Let's say you are not a parent of an autistic child or closely associated with one and you are cruising the aisles of a grocery store when it's difficult not to notice a child having a tantrum. What is your first response? I have to admit mine is "what kind of a parent would let their kid do this in public?" And that's not uncommon. On top of parents with autistic kids feeling terrible about their inadequate parenting already, they become immediate social pariahs just trying to do the everyday business of life.

Modern medicine is making greater strides in understanding and treating autism and it turns out that sex differences between boys and girls do matter in both diagnosis and treatment.

A striking finding of the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, showing a 78% increase in cases over the past decade, is that the ratio of boys to girls in autism spectrum disorders, (ASD) is about 5-to-1. That is higher than what is usually reported in other studies, where a ratio of 2-, 3- or 4-to-1 is more common. Though the numbers are consistent the explanations are less conclusive with the ways we socialize boys and girls being among several factors. It is reported that boys with autism are more often bullied.

In Horseboy, the father Rupert Isaacson is on an amazing quest, not just to deal with his son's seemingly intractable condition, but to discover at root how we view autism from more than one cultural perspective. And how people at the other end of the earth might help relieve his son's suffering in ways modern medicine has yet to conceive let alone condone. With his doubting but willing wife, Rupert travels to Mongolia seeking shamanic healers on horseback and there begins one of the wildest rides I've ever viewed on film.

The more I watched, the more I appreciated both the limits and unlimited capacity we humans have for being with and for each other in some of the most challenging relationships. The love of this father for his son is truly as or more breathtaking than the scenery of the Mongolian steppes.

Watch a 3 minute trailer of the movie:
How girls and boys differ when it comes to autism:

1 comment:

  1. Randy, We watched this movie on Netflix last night. It is marvelous to witness the validation of shamanic medicine and of the powers of will and love.


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