Thank You Lightening McQueen.

On tiptoes, he performs the eight-step, mini-circle dance while looking up. His eyes are fixed on the movement of pixels on the flat screen. He is smiling and happy. No, he is not following directions for a new dance. He is reacting either to the recorded show, the video game, or the commercial. All of these can hold his attention for between 30 seconds to maybe 5 minutes. Forget a TV “special” like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or A Christmas Carol. And a movie? You must be joking.

My son likes television. He is highly rigid about what he will watch and even then, about the portions within the program to which he will actually pay attention. Certain shows he used to watch (and love), he now fears – like Yo Gabba Gabba. If that show is on, he will start with mild panic. Unless it is immediately switched off, he will actually melt down watching it. Although, I can’t really blame him. The giant one-eyed Muno is really quite frightening.

The kid from the Wonder Years does the voice for this mellow octopus who is highly popular at my house.

His line up of TV shows runs in cycles, much like his interest in toys. He was very into Batman in late spring and early summer. Then, he turned back the clock and went very retro into the cancelled show Oswald (a Nick Jr. octopus cartoon) and the dreaded Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (dreaded to me – not to him), with a little Team Umizoomi (exciting, yet feared, simultaneously) and Wow Wow Wubzy mixed in. Blue’s Clues was simply a fluke, the only show he’d watch beginning to end.

He doesn’t “watch” any of these for real, though. He watches 30 second clips within specific shows. He then asks for repeats of the 30 second clips, over and over. He will laugh, express excitement, echo what he hears, and ask me to confirm what he witnesses over and over.


Long ago I tired of the rewind. I rarely do it. Yes, admittedly, sometimes I allow it. This is because, either I hear the 30 second clip over and over, or I hear the 147th request for the clip. I set a limit – “You can watch it two more times and that’s it.” He actually respects this – who’d of thunk it right? Now, if he wants to see that section of Wubzy where Wubzy rides the overflowing cake batter like a wave, to the center of Wuzzleburg, and Earl says, “Kooky” one more time, he’ll have to figure out how to use the remote himself.

And he does figure out the remote. So, I listen to Earl say, “Kooky!” on average, 30 times per day. In the car and at home. Yes, I said “in the car”. You see, back before I knew about ASD, I had this brilliant idea that it would be fun for him to watch his Nick Jr. shows in the car while I drove. This worked out great – – for him, not so much for me.

Even in the car, though, his attention is divided between TV and some electronic form of entertainment, mostly the iPad. So actual watching something all the way through (maybe 6-8 minutes for the average cartoon episode) is a rarity. He hyper-focuses on 30 seconds and ignores the rest.

I used to watch something called the local and network news. As a matter of fact, which you probably don’t know, before I became a lawyer, I worked in television and double majored in broadcast journalism and political science in college. I worked at an NBC radio affiliate in the newsroom, and for PBS doing documentary news features – a lifetime ago… So, having given up all of that and much of my legal career to raise my son, maybe you can see how I might go a little stir crazy, having watched almost nothing but children’s cartoons over and over for the last three years…

Recently, feeling kooky myself, I picked up a copy of Cars 2 that was just released. I figured that someday, maybe when my son was 12 or 32 or something, we’d get around to watching it. Imagine my surprise when he asked to go upstairs (where our big TV is) and watch the movie over the weekend! Hooray! I’d get away from Kooky Earl, see something relatively new, in the nature of a movie, and possibly be entertained!! Was it too much to hope for?

I took up the iPad, the DS, a couple of push button cars, and some organic popcorn, and we went to watch the movie as a family. Yes, the daddy too!

And the little guy watched. He really, really watched. It helped that he knew all the characters from Mater’s Tales and saw bits and pieces of the first movie. It helped that he has a zillion Cars toys. And it helped that there were plenty of racing scenes.

There were moments that he got up, ran, and tried to body slam the screen. There was only one time that he asked to go back downstairs. Part of the time, he spent playing his DS. But he made it through the whole movie and watched quite a bit of it! He asked questions about things he didn’t understand like the oil riggers. He asked questions about things he did understand like the “cars” elevators (which he loved)…

And it was the best movie I’ve seen in three years… Oh yeah, that includes me seeing The Social Network… lame. I’d watch Cars 2 over that again easily. What does that say about me? Don’t answer that.


About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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19 Responses to Thank You Lightening McQueen.

  1. Flannery says:

    Now see, I thought Cars 2 had a more complicated and hard-to-follow story plot. Not for me. For my kid. But it was cute.

    We have a lot of repetition too. I dream of submerging the Backyardigans in a boiling vat of battery acid….

    It’s awesome that you either found a movie that he likes enough to stick with, or that, even better, he’s maturing a little and becoming more focused on his environment. Either way, a win!!’

    Have you tried Polar Express? Just wondering, my kid was a sucker for trains, and it was a big hit at our house for a while.

    • solodialogue says:

      Oh, wait a minute! I was actually supposed to get “comprehension” out of him?! I was just glad he stayed seated and paid attention in parts! 😉

      Yes, actually, we have Polar Express and I love that movie but he was kind of scared of it last year… You’ve inspired me to try again! Maybe with a nice glass of wine for Mommy. 🙂

  2. Grace says:

    I can’t help but laugh when reading this. If you think Mickey Mouse and Wubzy are bad now, just wait until you see what he’ll be into in 3 years! (I hate to sound like a know-it-all, and I hope I’m wrong, but if your son is anything like mine…well…brace yourself.)

    I’m surprised to hear that Cars 2 was good. I have a strict rule against sequels of any kind. In fact, I don’t even call them “sequels,” I call them “the never-ending search for more money.”

    Congrats on a successful movie night. Ryan and I rather enjoy our movie nights.

  3. blogginglily says:

    If I took anything from this posting it was this. . . “and some organic popcorn”. . . W. T. F??

    Organic popcorn?? What does that even MEAN?? I’m a popcorn purist, and I NEED to know about this organic popcorn before we continue this blogger to blogger relationship.

    • solodialogue says:

      Haha! Only YOU would make a comment like this! Organic popcorn is just “hippie popcorn”, made with corn that has no pesticides or toxic residues and is “healthier”. I don’t know what other crops are grown around the corn, but I am in California, you know… 😉

  4. mamafog says:

    Glad you all enjoyed a movie. Do they have the AMC sensory friendly showings in your area? We haven’t tried yet, but I’m tempted for the upcoming muppet movie. My daughter is all about Sesame Street.

    What is a DS?

    • solodialogue says:

      I don’t know if we have an AMC sensory friendly showing! I’ve never looked for that. I’ve heard of it too and I think it might be a good experience! I’ll wait for you to go first! A new muppet movie? That sounds good.

      A DS is just a Nintendo hand held video gaming device. Most kids my son’s age have one. He was late to it but he loves it too. 🙂

  5. Teresa says:

    I can recite the first 45 minutes of the Empire Strikes Back movie verbatim. CMR watched it EVERY morning before school and after that before work until he moved into his own home at 26+ years old. It was one of his rituals that gave him the power to leave the safety of home. I thought I’d have to turn it on after his move but 5 years later and ‘not so much.’
    Fascinating path you took to get here. I better understand your need to have a red pen now.
    Glad the family found a new movie.
    The force be with you!

    • solodialogue says:

      Very interesting! The whole movie every morning?! How early did he get up for that? Or was it just parts? That’s cute that you thought you’d have to turn it on after the move! 🙂

  6. We haven’t let our son know that the rewind feature even exists. But he is equally picky about what he’ll watch- pretty much Elmo, Elmo, and more Elmo.

    Glad you liked Cars 2!

    • solodialogue says:

      You don’t have to let him know – just don’t ever, ever rewind something in front of him. Then, it’s over. He’s too smart and will figure it out on his own. Elmo is a mighty motivator!

  7. Lana Rush says:

    My family has often wished there was a game show that had you finish lines of script or songs from The Backyardigans. We would dominate! And hopefully, be gazillionaires.

    Lily and Tootles watch videos the exact same way. She is totally enamored with the fast forward and rewind bar on the iPad. Since she discovered its wonders, she hasn’t watched anything completely through.

    I must tell you, I totally laughed out loud at your sentence, “There were moments he got up, ran and tried to body slam the screen.”

    While this would not shock me in the least, don’t you ever just wonder what parents of typical kids think when they read something like that???

    • solodialogue says:

      The Backyardigans are not on his radar right now. Shhhhh. I used to have to rewind the song about driving through some asteroids.

      You are so right! When you said that about the “body slam”, I had to laugh – I don’t think I get many “normies” round these parts! I do know there are a few but luckily, they get it! 😉

  8. Kelly Hafer says:

    I have to agree to Flannery – Cars2 was very hard to get into (ME – not the kiddo!). And, I LOVE the “Kooky” kid from Wubzy!

    • solodialogue says:

      You must be a real grown up and watch good TV like, hmmmm- Jersey Shore, with a certain teenager? Cars 2 beats “kooky” Earl and any (and I do mean any) Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episode ever made! 😉

  9. Lizbeth says:

    I have found that as Alex get older the movie watching thing get easier–buy just by a little bit. We’ve never dared go to a theater, even on the on the special needs night, and we generally buy DVD’s and watch them bit by bit over the course of a few days. There are somethings he loves to watch such as How its Made, Storm Chasers and things of a factual nature. I have found the shows with a plot seem to throw him. Most kids movies have some kind of conflict that must be sorted out and that genuinely upsets him to the point to where he can’t watch. We can now get him to watch from the hallway which is progress!

  10. eof737 says:

    Wow! Bot of you have been busy haven’t you? I’m impressed with the way he divvies his time between the TV screen, the iPad, toys, and everything else… and yes, I’m impressed by your past in news… I’ll watch Cars 2 too, no problema. 😉
    I’m working on catching up again after a hectic workshop week again. 🙂

  11. TMBMT says:

    I’m looking forward to getting to see Cars 2, loved the first one! Glad you got to see a movie, something about getting to sit down and watch a movie with someone… I really miss it when I have to go long without it.

    When my nieces were little they were all about the power rangers, now THAT was a horrid show. My brother had to ‘outlaw’ it when they started beating each other up on a regular basis. Now all the boys seem to be into Spongebob… which is an entire show, made for kids, but chalk full of bizarre but anatomical references… I just don’t get it. Sometimes my nephew starts talking about the show and I gasp at the things he says before I figure out he’s actually naming characters and places in the show and has no idea what those phrases are used for in the real world… I’d like to ring the neck of the person that created that show.

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