Tuesday, March 08, 2011

He Did It

Here is a compilation of Theo's scenes from his performance in Annie Jr. with Unity Stage Theatre Company this past weekend.

You may recall my nerves when the rehearsal process began. Can he do this? The odds seemed stacked against him. Here was a little boy with autism in a giant space with 27 typical kids who were forming instant friendships and excited about their roles in the play. Theo was eating by himself and not quite getting what he was doing...there was a point when he thought he was playing Annie (because he really wanted to!).

In the beginning, he threw chairs, ripped other kids' homework, hit his castmates. He was so lost and confused that he acted out. If he didn't get a turn in a theatre game, he cried. I asked Sofia, the director, if I could start attending rehearsals with him, and she agreed.

His behavior was so awful at the first rehearsal I saw...I knew in my heart that we had to quit the play. And I cried for three days. But I couldn't bear to call Sofia and tell her. And in case you're wondering, I couldn't bear to blog about it here, either. I talked to Joe about it all week and consulted a couple of message boards, and at the last minute, we decided to give him another shot. Maybe the hour and 45 minute rehearsals were too much for him. What if we just stayed an hour?

So we went back. This time, we had a talk before rehearsal. We went through the list of rules. "Listen, no hitting, wait your turn in games," etc. I acted as a para for him. I did my best to remain in the background, but gave him a gentle push or redirect when he needed it. The next rehearsal, Theo turned a corner. We never did need to leave early. I think that talk we continued to have before rehearsals really helped. Theo does well when prepared for what's about to happen, and when he knows what's expected of him.

As he grew comfortable with the other kids, the adults, and the teenage assistants, his behavior not only improved, he was one of most cooperative kids there. He loved the theatre games so much that he sat focused and participated beautifully. He even became one of the boys. I remember the first time I watched the boys walk over to his table and sit with him. I think I had to cover my wet face with my hair.

When he finally got to rehearse his scenes on stage, he was over the moon. It was clear how much he enjoyed it -- not just peforming, but watching. While the other kids grew restless watching scenes they weren't in, he sat spellbound.

Theo now knows theatre lingo -- scene, rehearse, props, and director, just to name a few, are words he didn't know before.

To say we're proud of him doesn't seem to convey what Joe and I experienced. All the parents were proud of their kids. But when your kid overcomes as much as Theo did to stand on stage, say a few lines and do a few dances with a big smile -- no, pride doesn't even begin to cover it.

Sunday night, we laid in bed talking about Theo's face on stage when he said his lines, finally nailing them. He was beaming. We remembered the quintessential "Hi, mom" wave he gave when he spotted us in the audience. We talked about all the people who came -- so many friends, family members, and even two of his teachers. All the people who love him and are rooting for him. And we cried, because our son inspires us. We hope this story can inspire others.


ssspune said...

Oh Elyse, I learn so much from you about what it is to be a great mom. I am so glad you wrote this. Like your title says, HE DID IT! I loved watching his hip action again, he's an incredible mover! A bazillion congrats to Theo : )

Elyse Orecchio said...

Pune, I hope I've said this before, but thanks for supporting my leaving work early on rehearsal days! I'm really glad you came to the show. :)

HIP ACTION!!! Now I'll be smiling all day.

Kathleen said...

Three things I notice about Theo:

1. He is about 400% engaged in what he's doing.

2. He moves right in time to the music.

3. He is the only boy in the cast whose shirt remains somewhat tucked in.

I think you got yourself a winner there.

Erica said...

Oh Elyse! He looks awesome. I could totally tell why you're so proud and I don't even know him and I'm proud!

Jonathan L. said...

Joe's comment on FB made me search for this old URL I vaguely remembered and haven't been to in years.

This post was astounding. Astounding. It has taught and improved me for sure; I will remember this scene I missed.

Olivia said...

Elyse, this is the first time I have visited your blog. This entry touched my heart. Your Theo is such an incredible inspiration. I have never met him but his spirit has moved me. Thank you so much for sharing; it means more than I could ever say.


Tom said...

Elyse, I cried with happiness for you and Joe after reading what you wrote. You are both amazing! And so are your two beautiful children! BRAVO THEO!!!!!

Tom said...

The last comment was actually made by me, Mary. (Sorry, not good at this stuff)

Cl√°udia said...

Hi Elyse,
Thank you for sharing Theo's wonderful journey. He was delightful to watch.
Claudia(Alicia's mom)

Elyse Orecchio said...

Thanks for the love, everyone, it means so much.

And Claudia, I finally realized why I love Alicia's Annie so much. She's so little and real, without a touch of the pretentious groomed Annies you see all the time, like this:

guerrilla mama said...

Elyse, thank you for posting this! I'm sharing in your tears of joy at Theo's success. It's so hard to watch your child be the one who's sitting alone or not being included. He's such a great little boy - I'm so happy that the other children figured that out and that he became a part of the group. So happy for Theo!! We love you guys!