We all remember that viral-video of Jason McElwain : the Autistic Basketball manager made, star ” J-Mac.” If you don’t? Well then, just Google it. He is everywhere. A talented, dedicated guy that got a 1 in a million chance to be a superstar!! That 2006 moment from his life was transformative. Transformative for him. More curiously transformative for others.
Watch his story HERE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1fw1CcxCUgg
Jason the beloved manager for the team. An Autistic young man that so obviously loves the comradery of sports particularly, basketball. All season long working his job, enjoying the ups and downs in the ‘life of a season’. It is magic. An excellent environment for any person Autistic, non -Autistic or any other difability. The endorphins that flow in that on-going setting are very powerful. I experienced this as a kid growing up and again in 2010 when my non-verbal son Wyatt and I joined the “A-League” in San Dimas California. An entire season of Baseball games and after game fun for 4 teams of Autistic kids of all sizes, ages, shapes and abilities. Transformative indeed. Good healthy outdoor activity with movement, patterning and friendship. It was magic.
Archives of that season HERE: http://autismhwy.com/blog/?cat=62
Letting people evolve their abilities naturally with supports and structures is how we ran that season. How most season’s run. Everyone was encouraged to play to their own ability and no one criticized anyone else’s style. Nice. An ideal atmosphere to learn and grow. Problems arise when you “tamper” with that simple formula.
This week I was surprised to see a NEW viral basketball video hauntingly reminiscent of the 2006 video I’ve cited. Time warp or something I will dub the “J-Mac Effect.“? Another basketball team manager with a difability and an enormous love of the game getting out on the court in the last minutes of the season.
Here is his ‘transformative’ MOMENT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1bIzYMXRfY
At first blush the majority of people see a wonderful thing…even MORE wonderful in that an opposing player kicked in with empathy for this latest team manager on the court. A great kid going with the obvious flow of what the crowd wanted. The coach makes dramatic proclamations that he had pre-planned and decided the last minute of this last game would belong to Mitchell come win or lose?!! Who’s moment is this again, Coach? Seems like he felt Mitchell needed his ‘J-Mac moment’ and the News, the crowd and everyone else became swept into that madness because, they needed it TOO. Whether Mitchell likes it or not he is on the spot to make this shot. Wow. Time for your transformation so everyone can feel good. It seemed forced and unnatural to me. If my son had been placed in that situation he may have taken his shoes off and thrown them to the top off the gymnasium ceiling! Mitchell is visably slumping and distressed as he misses shot after shot after shot. A lot of pressure thrust on someone unexpectedly. Had he not made a basket the angst aftermath could have been devastating for him. Happily, he got that hoop and smiling photo op being lifted atop the team. But, at what cost? Who was it really for? Fairy tale endings are best left for Hollywood. Forcing transformative moments is not what is needed. Understanding people with difabilities, including and respecting them as they are is. So this video struck a very raw nerve with many.
This is a HOT topic and sets people off igniting debate. Autistic adults do not want to be set up, coddled, infantalized and told they are so inspiring by merely being themselves. So why do we think our children will? Imagine how you might feel? Possibly hurt, insulted, marginalized and annoyed? For Mitchell to be molded into the latest inspiration story was wrong even though his mom seems genuinely happy for this memory. Above all else intellectual respect is what feels good, what human dignity truly craves. It’s what people feed on, self-worth for the person you are and the things that you like to do. Whatever that is! Who wants to be patronized and turned into some coach and news stations idea of a ‘feel good’ story? The J-Mac effect. To be respected and appreciated for his loyal work, love of the game and for performing his managerial duties is what is expected, hoped for. That’s how Mitchell is a huge part of the team. Not some over the top Inspiration Porn for others trying to turn him into J-Mac. Yes, you heard me right…”Inspiration Porn” This is what Autistic Adults have dubbed this type of mass ‘back patting behavior’ when a person with differences is spotlighted (kind of.)
We have all seen this before. Like the recent Kathie Lee Gifford over the top debacle. The story about the ‘sad Autistic Kid’ that no-one sits with at lunch. Awwww, I know: let’s do a “feel good story” about the wonderful boy whom will sit with him. Bring them to New York for their big moment and to tell their inspirational story LIVE!! Again good intentions gone awry….Kathie Lee’s big ego, I mean-idea to compose a song is the most inspirational ‘I.P.’ move ever.
An AWESOME AUTISTIC Response: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MwuJy07lQY
What is that???
& Can we stop??
Instead of these feel good stories really geared for and about the ‘non differing people’. Give these guys the kind of awe and help they truly deserve: How about a story describing what it takes for folks like J-Mac and Mitchell to navigate the cool jobs they have landed for themselves and kept with a season of hard work, devotion and diligence? Give the audience ideas what it takes to support their success’. Treat them like the real valid team members that they are. Give them shots to play all season. Don’t turn them into a storybook ending that teaches nothing useful about inclusion and leaves everyone just sayin’ …..awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.