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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Transformations and Everyday Magic

HAPPY NEW YEAR, and welcome back to the blog!!

Adam and the Magic Lamp - drawn by Adam (2001)

This is the season when our minds turn to changes and transformation. What would you wish for at the start of this new year if you found an old lamp and unearthed a genie?

Sometimes when life is difficult, we give up on wishing and hoping and dreaming. New Year's resolutions can seem like something meant for people who don't know how sharp a left turn life can take, people who have not yet experienced an event they can't budget or diet their way out of.

While you may not be able to use a "genie wish" to change the basic circumstances of your life, you can still try this bit of everyday transformative magic: choosing to change your perspective can change your daily reality. Sounds simple, but it's true.

Here's the challenge: How about taking a week and rather than thinking about the deficits and challenges your person with autism must deal with, instead focus your attention on the gifts and talents they also possess? 

And to illustrate my point, as always, a couple of stories (about transformations of the visual kind):

Here is a story that was drawn by Adam when he was 11 years old (just one of a series he drew involving magic and transformations):

The story shows humour and imagination, people interactions and emotional reactions. He was fascinated by plot lines where witches and wizards used magic to transform people into animals (his favourite movies were "The Emperor's New Groove", "Shrek" and "Aladdin"), and he loved to create his own fairy-tale story lines. None of this rich thinking was evident in his spoken or written work at the time - we had to move into the unconventional context of purely visual communication to connect with the true creative intellect that lay underneath the more obvious surface deficits of impaired verbal language.

Michael is another young man that I work with who has always been fascinated by visual transformations. Awkward social situations where he has removed hats and glasses from strangers in public places turned out to be his attempt to see what people looked like with and without the extra features (something we discovered as we drew out the problematic situations).

Animation turned out to be a perfect medium for him to explore this visual interest without the downside of negative social reactions. Here is a movie that he and I made together a few years ago - he drew the storyboard and I used Flash to animate it for him (click on the title under the picture to activate the link):

Again, you can see the humour and emotion in the short story sequence - an interesting glimpse into the thoughts running through his head.

This year we have been using Michael's high interest in visual changes to encourage him to start to learn how to use animation and movie software himself. Our focus is to transform those initially challenging social situations into real-world skills that he can use for enjoyment and maybe even eventually employment. 

And so, some food for thought as you start off 2012:  Life is ever a mixture: good and bad, easy and hard, happy and sad. But, whatever the circumstances, the transforming choice you always have is whether you focus your attention on the full or the empty part of the glass.

... so bottoms up! and savour the sweet part to the last drop.

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