If you’ve seen any of the Rocky movies, you’ll recall the four-or-so-minute training montage, complete with inspiring music, where Rocky goes from emotional rock bottom to perfect physical shape and fired up to take on his seemingly invincible opponent. It’s the moment when the whole movie pivots toward its happy ending. All of his hard work is time compressed into those four minutes.
Who among us wouldn’t give anything for a four-minute life turnaround like that?
This technique isn’t unique to Rocky movies, to be fair. Shows like the weight loss edition of Extreme Makeover and the other numerous, one or two-hour, physical and emotional transformation programs use the same approach. Months or years of transformation shrink to fit into these short time slots. And they are tightly edited to keep your heart strings sufficiently plucked.
Infomercials, and really most marketing, use this, too. In advertisements from 30 seconds to 30 minutes, you see the quick and easy transformation of someone’s life into something so much better. You see in these commercials the kind of person you’d like to become – physically in better shape, better looking, sexier, having a simpler life, happier. And they imply – or explicitly state – that you’ll get quick results just like that, too.
We Want This to Be True, and That’s OK
We all buy into this to some degree or another. We want that better life. It’s completely understandable, and we shouldn’t judge ourselves for it. You’re just not going to get it like this. It never works this way. There is no solution where a few minutes of work and some inspirational music will permanently transform your life into the one you want. This may sound obvious, but we are all drawn into these promises at times in our lives.
As autism parents, we are perhaps more interested than many in solutions to challenges that confront us and our children. We want our kids to overcome obstacles. We want to be the best parents we can possibly be so we can help them. So we go looking for what will help us do that.
What’s At Stake for Us
We don’t want to see our children struggle. It pains us terribly. We’re parents, and this is what we do. So we want to make it easier on them as quickly as possible. The promise of rapid improvements and solutions hits us straight in the heart. After all, we often feel like we owe it to our children to consider all the options and try whatever seems to have a chance of helping.
Marketers of a number of autism-related products and services know all about this. They capitalize on these techniques and our needs and motivations to offer us quick and easy fixes. We get exhausted, confused, perhaps even desperate to help our children and get our own lives under control. We want help badly.
And we can’t bear the thought of missing out on something that might help our children. So we become willing to consider most anything that sounds even kind of plausible. Many of us have spent a great deal of money on the quest to find what will help our children overcome challenges, and so often what we try doesn’t live up to the promise.
It Takes Time
But here’s the truth. These quick solutions are a mirage. Change, unfortunately, takes time.
And as it takes time, we often feel more and more alone. Our energy and strength regularly run near or on empty. When we get like this, we desperately need something to work. And when we’re desperate, it’s so hard for us to know what to do.
But let me suggest a different way of doing all this.
When you build communities of trusted autism parents, friends, and family for mutual support, they can become sources of energy and strength for you. When you take some time here and there to do something to take care of yourself, you also get renewed. Every little bit makes a difference. This helps you sustain yourself over the long haul, the place where we find the most lasting solutions to help our children overcome their greatest obstacles.
It took our son eight years to be able to say ‘b’ and ‘p’ sounds. It took him months and years to be able to do things like dress himself, do a few chores, ask for help, say ‘no’, sleep at night, and many other achievements. There was no magic technique or treatment that helped him do these things. It took consistent work over time with the support of numerous people.
What You Need for the Long Parenting Journey
I know the thought of months and years and all the work your child and you will have to put in can feel very disheartening. I’m sorry.
I don’t know what the future holds for any of us. I’m just very thankful that I have communities of support and people I can turn to when I need to talk things out directly with someone. Finding them has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. They give me perspective. We build each other up. Many of them have been through this, too. They have walked with us, some for many years.
So when you hear the siren songs of the promises of products that will change your life and make everything better and easier, see them for what they are. They are not substitutes for time, work, community, support, and love.
There are no shortcuts. There isn’t any inspirational music with four-minute magical transformations. But there is the opportunity to journey with your child and discover wonders along the way. Let your child be your guide and your communities be your support. You’ll never be in this alone.