Andrea Moriarty is the author of two books on autism. Reid Moriarty is a singer-songwriter and YouTube personality. They live in Solana Beach.
Here’s the thing about families with autism: We have accumulated years of experience being resilient and designing for new parameters.
The pandemic wasn’t the first time we have had to make major adjustments. It required adaptation, which is our sweet spot.
Last March, we had to tell my son that the library and his favorite Mexican restaurants were closed. We had to tell him that his new job at Panera and a dozen upcoming musical gigs were canceled.
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Reid is 25 and has autism. He changed schools six times in 12 years. He said goodbye to dozens of beloved therapists when they left for graduate school or marriage. He bounced back from meltdowns and wrong medications. Reid is one of the most resilient people I know.
In January 2020, Reid got his first apartment two miles from us with supported living staff. As a musician, he expressed the transition through songs like this one called “Doin’ It My Own Way.”
Wash my face
Go to the hot tub
‘Cause I have my own space
No mom and dad
To tell me what to do
Beans, chips and pizza
I can make my own food
Doin’ it my own way…
In the uncertainty of the shutdown, Reid returned home. As excited as the Jacuzzi made him, he was even happier to sit in front of our flat-screen TV. With his feet up on the sofa, he quipped, “I kinda like this pandemic,” and he wrote “My New Holiday.”
Kick off your shoes
Forget the news
Today I’m gonna do what I wanna do
A fresh breath of air
No cares to care
I’m gonna make today my new holiday
Hang upside down
Gonna jump up and down
I’m all about the unpredictable
Watch new cartoons
There’s nothing to lose
I’m gonna make today my new holiday
What next? If necessity is the mother of invention, autism moms are inventors of the century.
For cheap thrills, we began taking daily drives in my convertible Volkswagen Beetle –– with the top down — and he wrote “Taking a Joyride.”
Taking a joyride … what will we see?
Get outta the house … in this quarantine
Messy hair from the wind
Feels like freedom, like a vacation
Throw your hands in the air
Feel the rushing wind, like a roller coaster
Turn the music up loud
Cranking Alison Krauss all the way to our house
In time, we made the pivot to virtual music lessons. Reid seemed more attentive on Zoom than he was in person. Nose to the screen, he stared into the pixelated eyes of his familiar teachers. He and his songwriting partner, Heath Farmer, hit their stride during 2020. Without the pressure of rehearsing for gigs, they focused on songwriting.
One morning, Reid walked downstairs for a joyride wearing underwear with a shirt and shoes. He muttered to himself, “All I need now is pants.”
“Now that needs to be a song!” I burst out loud.
It became one, with that title.
Woke up in the morning
Got me some breakfast
All I need now is pants
I got my keys
Got my slip-on Vans
Only forgot one thing
Figuring out this quarantine; all I need now is pants
Right at noon got my Zoom meeting; all I need now is pants
Can’t go to the store; and there’s none left in my drawer
In the summer, I asked former tutors if Reid could read to their toddlers over Facetime. This went famously and inspired “Reid Reads,” a story time series on his YouTube channel.
As the stay-at-home orders dragged into December, Samantha Ginn, Reid’s acting coach, had a stroke of genius to reconnect her students. “Late in the Day with Reid and Friends” is a fresh talk show starring six neurodiverse young adults; think Stephen Colbert meets Mister Rogers. It airs the last Friday of every month on YouTube.
Obviously, 2020 was a horrific year for many people. I recognize that everyone’s experience was unique; ours may not be the norm. As we reflect and reboot at the one-year mark, it helps me to embrace the positive aspects.
Human nature is resilient and innovative. People with autism are every bit as human as the rest of us, and possibly more resilient. Their special needs provide design parameters that stimulate entire communities to be more innovative.
Come alongside a neurodiverse friend. You are the village of support they need. And you might be surprised how you benefit.