Zombies and Autism

Apocalypse?  No.  Adventure
There’s a lot to learn from the Zombie invasion and from autism

I have a soft spot for Zombies.
And the autism community.
Many times my crew has huddled and cuddled in the dark to watch Zombie movies, crunching on popcorn and hiding eyes behind fingers.  (My eyes, anyway.)
We love offbeat scary movies and some of them have become the stuff of family legend.  A few summers ago, cottage-bound, we picked up random DVDs at the movie store on our way out of town. One of them was called The Green Butchers.  We watched it over and over (and over and over) again. Blood, guts, meat locker and all.  Shocking? Not really.
Scary stories – and Zombie tales in particular – have a huge audience.  They feed into our anxieties, give us a thrill and leave us with the giddy relief of knowing they’re not real.  How about that Zombie Apocalypse anyway?  You know, when the dead rise and lurch around trying to eat our brains.  The scenario is so far-fetched and campy, it’s entertaining.
And yet…..
Zombies are popping up all over the place.  They’ve shuffled into the public mindset, “grabbed” our imaginations and invaded everything from movies, fiction and comic books to popular games, art and merchandize.  Maybe they are taking over.
Ottawa has its own Zombie Walk and, better yet, this month there’s a Zombie Adventure Challenge at Saunders Farm.  Scheduled for Sunday, August 26, it’s a fundraiser for the Autism Ontario – Ottawa Chapter. Lots of fun and action are guaranteed.
But what I like best about this Ottawa event is the spirit it exemplifies.
Autism can be a scary word. When it’s first spoken by a medical professional in reference to your beloved young child, it can feel – however momentarily – like the end of the world.
It’s not – at all.
However, families with loved ones on the autism spectrum do sometimes face seemingly monstrous battles – for timely diagnosis, for comprehensive, ongoing treatment, for social and educational supports.
Daily – particularly for families with younger kids on the spectrum – anything from going to the dentist to getting a haircut to getting groceries may be an ordeal.
And since autism isn’t physically evident, when kids (of any age) melt down in public – because they’re having difficulty with a transition or with sensory overload – parents can be judged harshly.
It – in Zombie lingo – bites.
While every individual with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is different and many have wonderful skills and abilities, there are always challenges. Those challenges often impact the entire family.

And yet…..

What’s fascinating about this not-always-so-scary story is how inspiring and entertaining it can be.  Autism informs us about our humanity.  It teaches patience and respect for difference.  It allows loved ones on the periphery to learn life lessons too many people never come to understand:

a. A lot of stuff we lurch around coveting?  It’s meaningless.

b. There’s more than one way of thinking.

c. Can’t? Won’t? Don’t believe it.

d. Quirks and exceptionalities are what make us interesting.

e. Human potential is unlimited.

f. Don’t wait until you’re dead to live.

And don’t miss the Zombie Adventure Challenge at Saunders Farm.

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