13-year-old Thomas has a passion for technology and animation. For years he has worked on his YouTube Channel, creating content and uploading videos. Imagine his shock and heartbreak when he discovered one day that everything on his channel had been deleted, and that all those hours of hard work had been reduced to nothing. Even more upsetting was the eventual revelation that the videos had been deleted by a classmate, one that Thomas had considered a friend.
When Thomas was younger he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Children on the Autism Spectrum are unfortunately often a target of bullying, and Thomas has experienced that firsthand on multiple occasions. Usually Thomas just ignores the negative treatment and tries to believe the best in people. He never dreamed that a friend would be so cruel as to deliberately erase all of his hard work. It eventually came to light that this child had been periodically bullying Thomas all year, but Thomas still tried to forgive and befriend him.
The moment Thomas told his parents about the deleted account they sprung into action. At first the deleted YouTube content seemed unrecoverable, so his father posted about it on LinkedIn: Continue reading
“Our Dad* has lived 24,998 days. Days filled with hope, fear, accomplishment, sadness, joy. But his days have been very different from yours and mine, because he’s color blind. He’s never seen red, pink, orange, green; the list goes on. But this Father’s Day, thanks to EnChroma, we were able to give him a gift beyond description… the gift of color.” These are the opening lines to a video, posted by a college friend (and linked to at the end of this post), that show’s his father’s reaction to wearing Color Blindness Glasses for the first time. (*not my Dad).
The message that I took away from this video was not that their Dad was broken and now he is fixed. That’s not the case. He was, and is, a complete person with a full life. His children simply wanted to be able to give him a new experience, as well as the ability to see things in a different way when he so wished.
Several videos about this amazing new technology have crossed my path recently, but I hadn’t watched any until now. I was more interested in seeing this particular one since it was about the father of a friend, and I’m so glad I took the time. There are many heartwarming moments in the video, including his reaction to the beauty of his flower garden. He seemed to be overcome with emotion.
I found it incredibly moving when he cradled his daughter’s chin in his hand and gazed at the color of her eyes, saying, “I’ve never seen them before.” It was a stirringly tender exchange, and a precious moment for them to share.
A short video featuring a gleeful little boy playing follow-the-leader with a sea lion somehow turned into a viral story that spread across the globe. That boy is my son, and I never dreamed that a visit to the zoo could be the catalyst for such a surprising chain of events and an unexpected opportunity, with my son’s permission, to share special-needs awareness.
(Note: revised and abridged version HERE)
My children love animals, and had been anxiously anticipating a visit to the National Zoo in Washington, DC. They could not wait to meet Bao Bao, the new baby panda. The first day that weather and circumstances permitted we jumped into the car for a trek up North, leaving early so that we could be on the zoo grounds before the buildings opened. Our intent was to get in line to see Bao Bao right as her exhibit opened, before the crowd got too large. Our walk to the pandas took us past the took us past the Sea Lion exhibit, and we entered an underground observation area which provided a clear glimpse beneath the surface of their watery enclosure. No one else was around. A young sea lion almost immediately appeared at the glass and stared straight at my 7-year-old son, seemingly attracted to the contrasting colors on his coat. The beautiful animal began to shadow his movements and Alex cried out, “He LIKES ME!” Little did we know at the time that the sea lion was actually a girl, named Sophie, and that Sophie regularly initiates games with her visitors. My son was simply happy that, for just a moment, Sophie was choosing to play with him. I watched it, transfixed, and then realized, “I SHOULD BE RECORDING THIS!” I fumbled for the camera, fully expecting that by the time I was ready to preserve the precious encounter it would be over. While I recorded she kept pace for several minutes, surfacing only for air. I began to make suggestions (“Move left. Freeze!”) to test if she was truly mimicking him. This caused my oldest son, Zachary, to remark, “She is TOTALLY following him!” Alex, who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, could barely contain his joy and shouted, “THIS IS THE BEST THING OF MY LIFE!” He often struggles with feelings of isolation, as do many children with special needs, and to see him so happy and in sync with his new friend struck a chord deep within my heart. Time seemed to freeze and we were mesmerized watching the two moving together as if in a dance. There was the feeling that we were alone with a magical creature in our own beautiful world.