By Debra Hosseini
It’s midnight in Ensenada. The crackling and popping of the Christmas fireworks hasn’t allowed much sleep. Kevin and Kurt sleep easier than me.
The modem at this motel is so slow. It takes over an hour for each two-minute video to upload.
I’ve come to a realization about Kevin in recent weeks. He reflects his environment and the attitude of those who are around him. Surrounded by love and acceptance he flourishes; in an atmosphere of fear and anger he flounders. Given his own power to lead the way, he does well. He is a leader not a follower.
Maybe most of our children are.
Maybe we need to shift from making them something we believe they should be, to something they are which we may not understand … yet.
I now believe people like Kevin are a reflection of the emotional health of our world. The Autistic people who are healthy and well-adjusted are surrounded by a loving and caring community.
Jim Billington of Hidden Wings knows this. That’s why he’s created a nurturing and safe community.
Here Kevin talks about being in the moment.
I don’t believe our hometown is an emotionally safe place for Kevin or me right now. A week ago, Kurt and I decide to take Kevin on an adventure.
Kevin’s dis-empowerment in his own community; loss of friends – access to streets and places limited. People avoid him in fear. He’s lost his dignity.
Kevin doesn’t know this.
He thinks everyone in Carpinteria loves him. He says it on the Storycorps interview (interview coming) which is being archived in the Library of Congress.
So on this adventure, we decide to make Kevin the leader.
He chooses where we go, where we eat, what we do.
Kevin is so often told what to do. I think this makes him feel “less than.”
After all he’s nineteen and an adult.
This entire trip we’ve been eating Mexican food and listening to Mariachi music!
My stomach hurts and my ears ache. That is a small sacrifice I’ll make for building Kevin’s confidence.
We start the trip the day before his IEP. He chooses Tijuana. For years, Kevin has been saying he wants to run off to Mexico.
Kevin accomplishes some amazing things in T.J. He stands in line to go back over the border for thirty minutes without complaining, and when the police officer told us it’s the wrong line, he doesn’t complain when he has to return to the end of another line blocks back and wait yet another thirty minutes.
“Kurt, let’s tell the policeman he’s Autistic,” I say.
Kurt says, “No excuses. He needs to stand on his own two feet.”
Besides the yee-ing in line. No problems.
This is a first!
On the way back on the red train we meet Melissa who has obvious mental health issues. She bonds with Kevin and Kurt and I take videos. Here’s one.
I pull out a card from my purse to get her phone number so I can get a release for the documentary I’m making.
She refers to herself as a Bible Buddha Blue Baby.
The card I pull out and ask her to write her name on is from the “Laughing Buddha.” A new thrift store in Carpinteria run by Mary, a great name for a person with a huge compassionate heart.
After T.J., we visit Kurt’s friend Charlie on this amazing organic self-sustainable farm in Fallbrook. Charlie and Kurt went to India together 40 years ago and haven’t seen each other for decades. Charlie makes a completely organic meal from his garden for us. We visit his chickens and his home which he made himself.What a delight.
Kevin talks about religion.
We come back on Friday for Kevin’s IEP. Becki, the School Psychologist and a wonderful friend, helped me ground myself by convincing me to get a pedicure.
Ironically, we receive the hospital reports right before the meeting. Kurt used his amazing ability to read 100 pages in a half-hour and found that Cindy lied to the doctor saying Kevin had hit her. Kevin never hit her.
An inflammatory lie made by his Special Ed teacher to the Physician and Sheriff may have caused the entire unfortunate events to unfold. She told the doctor and Sheriff’s Officer Kevin was dangerous and hit her. Kevin never even talks about this teacher and he’s never hit her.
I gather round many leaders in the community who I know will support Kevin as this has now become a civil right’s issue.
I had a tape recording of Kevin saying what he wants from www.storycorps.org.
One friend says at the last minute “You speak for Kevin. The recording is not necessary.”
I say, “It’s important Kevin speak for himself. His voice needs to be heard.”
The School District is prepared to send Kevin to Ohio. That must be convenient sending a “problem” 2,000 miles away.
Kevin did speak for himself in the IEP.
I play the part of the interview where Kevin says he wants to live in Carpinteria.
“He wants to live in Carpinteria with his dad. It seems you must change the culture of the school for him to be able to do this. That means restoring his reputation in town and all the damage you let happen.”
Later I play Kevin’s own words of how he hurt Cindy and Jose. On the Storycorps interview he says he hurt Cindy playing kickball two years ago. He hurt Jose when trying to be part of a “slap game,” between Jose and Joe. Kevin wants to be included yet seems always to be excluded in that class.
The next day we leave for Palm Springs. On Sunday, we visit Taquitz Mountain. Here Kevin talks about Karma, religions, friends, being in the moment, and had some major breakthroughs. (videos coming)
He ties a knot in his sweatshirt. This was the first time he ever tied a knot.
“How does that make you feel?” I ask.
“Impressed,” he replies.
The next day he tries to tie his own shoes.
He also for the first time says, “This is interesting,”
His classic line is “BOR-ING!”
“What makes it interesting, Kev?”
“It’s interesting when I’m the leader,” he says.
Yesterday he said his obsessive thoughts were gone.
Anyway, Happy Holidays from Mexico.
Thanks to all Kevin’s supporters.
Thanks to Royce, Becki, Beverly, Amrita, Jimmy, Dave and Louise for supporting Kevin. And Millie upstairs!
And all those who supported in silence.
I’m sorry Justine and Katie we’re not there for Christmas today. It’s Kevin’s choice.
We have gifts from Mexico!
Kevin is making a video for his family this morning.