Hi, I’m Loryn Stone and I’m a Pop Culture Internet sleaze-joke writer.
What does that mean? It means that my day consists of pretending like I know what I’m talking about with the following subjects:
- New Cartoons
- Old Cartoons
- Video Games
- Comic Books
- Marvel Vs. DC
- Star Wars Vs. Star Trek
- Comic Books
- Indie Comic Books
- New Music
- Old Music
- Pop Art
- Every. Season. Of Power Rangers. EVER.
- Books (especially ones that can be adapted to movies or television)
You get the idea. I love it– the immersion is fantastic, and if it wasn’t for my attempts to keep up with everything that’s happening out there in the real world, I would probably stay hidden in a dark and lonely garbage person hole of shipping cartoon characters and reading/writing filthy fan fiction.
I’m better off with the Pop Culture writing. Really.
Those of you who have been following me and my writing for more than a minute know that I have two kids, a boy named Avery (named after the late and great Warner Bros. animator Tex Avery) and a girl named Leia (who we pretend is named after women in the family named Leah, but we all know it’s a big lie and she’s named after Leia Organa). And those of you who have, again, been following my writing know that my son has ASD. You know– Autism Spectrum Disorder. I’ve written about my experiences with that twice, and you can find those articles here and here.
I apologize in advance if this is less of an article and more of a stream of consciousness, but this is what needs to happen today. I’ve enclosed a jewel that will help protect you, so just make it to the end, okay?
As my son is getting older (he’s turning six in December, sweet mother of science) and he’s in Special Day Kindergarten with a small group of children also on the spectrum, I’m beginning to notice a trend among Autistic children. That is those who hyper fixate, and those who have trouble connecting to things.
Avery is a combination of both– he will hyper fixate on bizarre, little things. But he cannot connect to (many) franchises or shows that many children his age do.
In one of my articles about Autism, I mentioned how because my son never showed interest in toys or characters as a toddler, I made sure to collect every single toy from whatever franchise he did like. He suddenly had a thing for lining up those die-cast trains from Thomas and Friends? Let’s hit Toys R Us twice a week, because we’re buying every train in the fucking room, son!
Or when the first video game he connected with was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? I bought him every single Link thing you could find. The blue costume, the green costume, the figurines, the plushies, pillowcases, T-shirts, foam swords, hard swords, shields, Amiibos– freakin’ everything.
The same happened when Avery got into Mario Odyssey. I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent on Mario blind bags and Hot Wheels cars. Same with Peppa Pig, My Little Pony, and their corresponding chocolate eggs with tiny little Kinder Surprise style toys inside.
Now, parents of average-functioning children might read this and think “What the hell is wrong with you? You’re going to spoil him. Why does he get so many toys?” And my answer to that is one, I’m a toy collector myself. So, toys forever, please. But second, and more importantly:
When your child is on the spectrum, you’re desperate for them to connect to media. It may not sound like something of significance that needs to happen, but it is. Media means personalities and stories. Media means picking your favorite cartoon character. It means pretending you like Michelangelo best because he’s the funny Ninja Turtle and you’re not quite sure what Leonardo does other than lead.
I have friends whose kids will watch anything. Like, they can just turn on Nickelodeon and their kids are just happy for TV time. That’s not my life with Avery. He refuses to watch anything that he hasn’t pre-approved. And not just “refuse” in that “I don’t like this, I’m going to walk away” kind of deal. But in that screaming, growling, hitting, throwing, bullying, tormenting his sister, may-lead-up-to-him-breaking-something sort of freak out that goes beyond the realms of shitty five year old behavior and into that “fuck Autism” kind of way. I also have friends who post pictures of their kids, snuggled on the couch, ready for their special treat of a Disney movie that they picked out all by themselves.
My little dude does love a big bowl of popcorn, though.
I know everyone dolls up their life on social media to only show the best and cutest money shots of their kids. But as someone whose son will watch the same four seconds (on loop) of a train coming down the tracks with its whistle blowing for an hour at a time and get lost in his own head, seeing the cute “Disney movie night” posts fucking sting. They really, really do.
As a Pop Culture writer whose husband is a director in animation, people seem to have the misconception that we’re just this fun-awesome fandom house. Well, we’re not. We can’t be. It’s very, very difficult even to just take the kids to the movies. And no, it’s not just because they’re young, although that doesn’t help. And while my daughter is not on the spectrum at all (she’s cognitively above average, in fact), she never gets her way against Avery’s tantrums. So, while she’s willing to watch and see new things or play with new toys, Avery’s freakouts supersede her compliance or curiosity.
Thus, I’m a Pop Culture writer who can’t introduce pop culture to my son. There’s really no other way to end this tangent other than with the truth. I know this isn’t a unique situation among families whose children are on the spectrum. Avery loves dressing up for Halloween as Link, and he’s finally immersing in imaginary play with Leia. There is progress and amazing things happening with him, and I want to stress that I appreciate this and know it’s good. Right now doesn’t mean never. But when you’re a family whose M.O. exists in the realm of Pop Culture, Nostalgia, Nerd Culture, Cartoons, how they’re made, comedy, and dick jokes, having a kid who doesn’t have a favorite Star Wars or Pokemon character can feel a little isolating.
However, that won’t stop me from trying.
I will keep my eyes open on his interests. I’ll nurture and encourage his hobbies. I’ll keep buying the toys and asking what he wants to watch, and what he wants to do.
I’ll never give up on my baby or look down on him for his limitations. Because there are things he can do more or better or stronger than his peers. And that smile…who could resist it?
But I promised a jewel that will help protect you, didn’t I? I refuse to end on a pessimistic note; I’m not giving up on my son. I know he’ll find his way and continue to connect to media that excites him and enriches his mind. Because you know what? When I went to Power Morphicon and saw so many children and young adults on the spectrum seeing their favorite Power Rangers actors and having the time of their lives without being over-stimulated, stressed out, or having tantrums?
It made me optimistic that Avery too will continue to connect, to thrive, and find his way to the other side.
It just might be with a fandom or franchise that hasn’t been invented yet.
Keep making art, my friends.
And keep imagining bigger…and better worlds.
Because you never know whose life you’re going to improve…by just being yourself.
Follow Loryn on Twitter, and then give her parenting advice.