I loved watching Puff the Magic Dragon growing up. However, a few months ago, I watched it again with The Boy. We'd been reading Peter Yarrow's Puff the Magic Dragon to The Boy at bedtime and thought it would be fun to watch the 1978 TV special.
When I watched the opening scene, I couldn't help but start crying (I know, I am a big ol cry baby). Because little Jackie Draper sounded like he may have had autism.
Bald Doctor: We have come to the conclusion that your son...Tall Doctor: Will not, nor can not...
Short Doctor: Speak, communicate, nor indeed...
Bald Doctor: Relate in any way to the world around him.
Jackie's Father: But doctors, we know that. He hasn't said a word in such a long time.
Mother: Can't you give us some hope that he will finally speak?
Tall Doctor: Alas, the case is hopeless.
Considering the year this was written in the 1970s, I could very well imagine doctors telling parents that their children were hopeless. Then Puff comes on the scene. And I see Puff as this hippy ABA sort of therapist who is determined to find the ''living thing" inside Jackie Draper.
Puff: Now, I'm going to borrow the living thing inside you and place it INSIDE Jackie Paper. Your living thing. You wonder what it is? It is that what causes you to laugh and to cry and to care. It is that which makes apples crunchy and tells your nose to tingle on a crystal winter's morning. It's kept in your left ear, you know.
Isn't that what we all work towards with our children - finding the Living Thing? The thing that makes our children laugh and cry; the thing that allows them to relate to us and the world around them. The thing that allows them to imagine, to nurture their creativity, their empathy.
I know it's what we work towards. We use books, toys, more books and music. If one thing doesn't work, we move on to something else. Sometimes we reintroduce things that haven't worked in the past - hoping it could work the second or third time around. The thing is we keep trying. We never see The Boy as a hopeless case. All of our children have the Living Thing within them. Sometimes, it just takes parents, caregivers, teachers, siblings, family members a little longer to find it.
We are like Puff. Looking for all sorts of fancy stuff. Trying and always hoping. Having the courage to try new things - because even if we're not successful at one thing, at least we know we've made the effort. And we continue to have the courage to move and try other things.
Watch Puff the Magic Dragon (in 3 parts)
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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.