Exclusive - Ron Suskind Extended Interview Pt. 2

  • Aired:  05/13/14
  •  | Views: 25,854

"Life, Animated" author Ron Suskind discusses the challenges and joys of unlocking the inner world of autistic children. (7:48)

>> SO, "LIFE, ANIMATED." WE'RETALKING TO RON SUSKIND.

ON THE BOOKSHELVES NOW.

OBVIOUSLY, THAT'S HUGELYEMOTIONAL.

I THINK ONE OF THE REALDIFFICULTIES FOR FAMILIES WITH A

KID ON THE SPECTRUM IS REALIZINGTHAT THERE'S SOMEONE IN THERE

AND THEN ALSO GETTING AWAY FORYOU, FOR ALL THE EFFORT YOU'RE

PUTTING IN, TO GET SOMETHINGBACK AS WELL, TO CONNECT AS

WELL, AND THAT WAS AN INCREDIBLEMANIFESTATION OF THAT.

>> YOU KNOW, LOOK, THESEFAMILIES ARE OUR PEOPLE, YOU

KNOW, THEY'RE ALL STRUGGLING.AND,

YOU KNOW, WE STRUGGLED AND OWENWILL STRUGGLE THE REST OF

HIS LIFE. HE'S AUTISTIC. IT'SNOT A SPELL THAT GETS BROKEN.

IT'S A WAY OF BEING.BUT THE FACT IS THAT

WHAT WE FOUND IS THAT, IN SOMEWAYS, TO MAKE

THEM BE MORE LIKE THEMSELVESRATHER THAN LIKE US IS A

REVERSAL OF THE POLARITY. IT'SLIKE TURNING THE TELESCOPE

AROUND. AND, THAT'S WHAT'S SOEXCITING AND KIND OF HUMBLING

ABOUT THIS, THAT NOWNEUROSCIENTISTS ARE

JUMPING IN AND SAYING THESE'REAFFINITIES AND EVERY KID'S GOT

ONE. IT COULD BE THOMAS THETANK, IT COULD BE MAPS.

>> THERE WAS ONE YOU WERE JUSTTELLING ME ABOUT. WIND CHIMES.

>> WIND CHIMES.

>> KID LOOKING AT WIND CHIMES.

>> YEAH, WE GOT LIKE WE'REPUTTING VIDEOS UP ON THE

WEBSITE. PEOPLE WERE SENDINGIN VIDEOS.

LOOK AT MY KID, HE DOES THE SAMETHING.

HE MAKES SENSE OF THE WORLDTHROUGH HIS SPECIAL THING.

AND WE SAY GOOD, YOU'REGOING TO HAVE TO LEARN HOW

TO SPEAK MAP, SPEAKDISNEY, YOU KNOW, SPEAK ANIME.

>> NOW, AND YOU ARE IN SOMEWAYS FORTUNATE IN THAT

HIS AFFINITY IS ALMOST ACOMPLETE TOOLKIT OF

INTERACTION, TYPICALLY WITH ARELATIVELY HAPPY ENDING.

>> YEAH, YEAH. YEAH, YEAH. MOSTOF THEM THE MOTHERS GETS

KILLED, BUT OTHER THAN THAT IT'SPRETTY GOOD.

>> YEAH.

WIND CHIMES, THIS IS MORECOMPLEX.

I THINK THE DANGER IS HOW DO YOUMAKE SURE THAT PARENTS DON'T

FEEL GUILTY ABOUT NOT BEING ABLETO FIND THE KEY?

AND WON'T THERE BE SOME KIDSTHAT DON'T HAVE THE KEY TO

UNLOCK THAT MAYBE WON'T DO THAT?

>> YOU KNOW, JON, NOW LOOK, WEJUST FEEL, YOU KNOW, KINSHIP

WITH ALL THOSE PARENTS. I MEAN,

WE SPENT YEARS UNABLE TOCOMMUNICATE WITH OWEN AND MANY

KIDS CAN'T COMMUNICATE WITH THEPARENTS. AND, YOU KNOW,

I THINK PART OF WHAT'S HOPEFULABOUT THE BOOK IS THAT THOSE

PARENTS ARE NOW COMING TO US.

I MEAN, THERE'S MAP GUY WHO ITALKED TO, HE SAYS, LOOK, MAPS,

I WISH MY KID DID DISNEY. I'MLIKE WELL, MAPS ARE EVERYTHING.

AND WE START TALKING ABOUT IT,AND HE'S A VERY BRIGHT GUY.

THEY ARE THE TOPOGRAPHYOF HUMANITY.

EVERY TOWN HAS A STORY BEHINDIT. THEY'RE WHO WE ARE AND WHERE

WE LIVE. SO NOW HE'S USING MAPS,AND RECENTLY HE SAYS MY SON

IS DRAWING IMAGINARY MAPS,MAPPING HIS EMOTIONAL LANDSCAPE.

>> Jon: WOW.

>> SO, IT'S REALLY THE SAME.IT'S JUST, IT'S US GETTING OUT

OF OUR SKIN AND GOING, IT'S NOTGOING TO BE ME.

IT'S GOT TO BE MORE OF THEM ANDFOLLOW THEIR BLISS AND

GET IN THERE WITH THEM AND YOUFIND INTERACTION.

>> HAVE THEY STARTED TO DEVELOPSPECIFIC -- YOU KNOW, AGAIN, A

FRUSTRATING THING ABOUT AUTISM,THE KID GETS STREP, THEY HAVE A

CERTAIN DRUG THEY GIVE TO THEM,

EVERYBODY'S DIFFERENT, ANDWHAT'S GOING ON IN THEIR MINDS

ARE REALLY SPECTACULAR, AND IT'SNOT ABOUT CURING IT --

>> YEAH.

>> Jon: IT'S ABOUT ALLOWING THEMTO FIND THE EXIT DOOR THAT HELPS

THEM COMMUNICATE.

>> YEAH, YEAH, EXACTLY. YOUKNOW, WHAT'S INTERESTING

NOW IS YOU'VE GOT M.I.T. ANDYALE AND THESE OTHER

UNIVERSITIES THAT ARE CROWDINGIN SINCE THE BOOK CAME IN,

SAYING LOOK, THESE AFFINITIES INA WAY WHEN YOU SEE

THE KID LOCK ON TO IT YOU CANSEE THEIR BRAIN LIGHT UP.

AND ACTUALLY HOW THEIR BRAINWORKS, IT'S THIS IDEA THAT

THE AFFINITY ACTUALLY RELIEVESUNDERLYING AND MAYBE INVISIBLE

CAPABILITIES YOU CAN'T OTHERWISESEE AND THAT MIGHT LEAD TO

BETTER POSSIBILITIES IN THELIVES OF A LOT OF FOLKS.

IT'S ABOUT A MILLION KIDS NOW INAMERICA.

IT'S ONE OUT OF EVERY 42 BOYS.

IT'S KIND OF CRAZY.

>> IT'S UNBELIEVABLY CRAZY.

YOU KNOW, HOPEFULLY, THEY FINDAND WORK ON THAT ASPECT OF IT,

OF HOW DO WE FIGURE OUT WHAT'SGOING ON.

BUT THIS IS AWFULLY IMPORTANT TOTHE FAMILIES THAT ARE DEALING

WITH IT.

ARE THEY DOING ANY STUDIES?

ARE THEY DOING ANYTHING THEYHAVE STARTED?

>> YEAH, WELL, WE CALL ITAFFINITY THERAPY. CORNELIA AND

I, WE NEEDED TO GIVE A NAME TOIT, WE CALLED IT DISNEY THERAPY,

BUT THERE ARE A LOT OFAFFINITIES SO LET'S CALL IT

AFFINITY THERAPY. SO, NOWTHEY'RE DOING THE RESEARCH, IT'S

STARTING AT A LOT OFUNIVERSITIES, AGAIN, TOHARNESS IT.

TO SAY, THIS IS A PATHWAY, NOT APRISON. LET'S GET IN THERE

AND SEE IF, IF EVENTUALLY, WECAN UNDERSTAND

MORE ABOUT THE WAY THEIRBRAINS WORK, ESPECIALLY IN TERMS

OF THE RICHNESS YOU'RE TALKINGABOUT.

>> RIGHT.

>> IT'S ALMOST LIKE BEING ABLETO SEE THE WAY THE BRAIN --

LOOK, WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THEBRAIN NOW, IT'S VERY PLASTIC.

WE USED TO THINK IT WAS A MAPTHAT DIDN'T CHANGE.

THE FRONTAL LOPE THIS, THE LEFTHEMISPHERE THAT.

THE BRAIN IS CONSTANTLYRESHAPING ITSELF.

THE BRAIN FINDS A WAY SO THATWHEN A PATHWAY GETS BLOCKED,

A TRADITIONAL PATHWAY, ITFINDS, I THINK,

A COMPENSATORY STRENGTH.AND, THAT'S WHAT WE FIND

WITH TALENTED PEOPLE WHO AREUNTRADITIONAL LEARNERS, LET'S

SAY, LIKE YOU KNOW, YOU AND MEPROBABLY.

>> SURE, I'LL GO WITH THAT.>> YEAH, YOU'LL GO WITH THAT,

RIGHT? I HAVE YOUR THIRD GRADETEACHER HERE.

>> Jon: I HAVE A COMPENSATORYSTRENGTH?

>> YOU DO, YEAH!

I LOVE THE WAY YOU'RE DOINGTHAT.

>> YEAH. BUT, BUT,AND THE REASON WHY -- YOU KNOW,

YEARS AGO, AND YOU KNOW, TEMPLEGRANDIN HAS SPOKEN A LOT ABOUT

THIS AND I'VE SEEN HER, AND HERAFFINITY I GUESS WOULD HAVE BEEN

ANIMALS, SCIENCE ANDTHAT TYPE OF THING --

>> THAT'S RIGHT.

>> Jon: BUT PEOPLE THOUGHT THEREWAS NOTHING THERE BECAUSE THEY

COULDN'T GET INTO IT.

THROUGH NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN.

I MEAN, I IMAGINE IT WASDIFFICULT.

THAT MEANS THE STORY, WHEN YOUCOME IN WITH THE IAGO PUPPET,

>> YEAH, YEAH.

>> Jon: THIS TO ME IS THE MOSTREVELATORY AND SORT OF

ALMOST PREMISE STATEMENT. TELLTHAT STORY.

>> WELL, YOU KNOW, SO, SOOWEN AFTER THAT NIGHT WHERE HE

TALKS ABOUT HIS BROTHER WANTING,YOU KNOW, PETER PAN OR MOGLI,

I GO UP TO THE ROOM ANDGRAB THE IAGO PUPPET, NOW THAT'S

THE VILLAINOUS SIDE KICK OFJAFAR THE VILLAIN FROM ALADDIN.

>> Jon: I DON'T WATCH IT AS MUCHAS YOU SO.

>> YEAH, THAT'S RIGHT. I'VEWATCHED IT 812 TIMES.

>> Jon: I CAN HIT YOU WITHFROZEN, BUT I DON'T HAVE --

>> YOU WANT TO DO, I'LL DOFROZEN.

>> Jon: I DIDN'T HAVE KIDS THEN.

>> WE'LL DO FROZEN TOGETHER.

(LAUGHTER)SO I PUT THE PUPPET ON AND I

THROW THE BEDSPREAD OVER MY HEADAND PUSH THE PUPPET UP THROUGH

THE CREASE OF THE BEDSPREAD ANDI THINK TALK TO HIM AS IAGO.

WE'RE KNOWING NOW HE'S GOT THESESCRIPTS IN HIS HEAD,

SO I SAY TO HIM IN GILBERTGOTTFRIED'S VOICE AND SAY, OWEN,

OWEN, WHAT'S DOES IT FEEL LIKETO BE YOU?

YOU CAN DO IT, ANYONE CAN DOGOTTFRIED.

>> Jon: NOT AS ANNOYING ASGILBERT, OK, BUT I'LL GIVE IT TO

YOU. IT WAS GOOD, IT WAS GOOD.SO THAT'S THE AMAZING THING.

SO, WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO BEYOU?

>> AND WELL, AND HESAYS BACK,

HE SAYS, YOU KNOW, NOTGOOD.

I'M LONELY AND I HAVE NOFRIENDS.

AND, THIS IS OUR FIRSTCONVERSATION EVER.

HE'S SIX AND A HALF.AND YOU KNOW, AND THEN WE TALK

FOR A WHILE AS IAGO AND OWEN.AND THEN AFTER A MINUTE

HE KIND OF CLEARS HIS THROATGOES LIKE THIS -- HE'S ONLY

SIX AND A HALF SO IT'S LIKETHAT -- (AND SQUEAK) AND HE

SAYS, I LOVE THE WAY YOUR FOULLITTLE MIND WORKS!

NOW, THAT'S JAFAR, THE VILLAIN! (LAUGHTER)

SO WE STARTED TALKINGAS THE CHARACTERS.

AND THE THING ABOUT TEMPLEGRANDIN, OF COURSE, WHO'S KIND

OF A ROCKSTAR, THE ONE AUTISTICPERSON A LOT OF PEOPLE

KNOW IS THAT SHE IS, AS SHEWOULD SAY, NOT EMOTIONALLY

VERY AVAILABLE.BUT WHAT WE FIND, I THINK A LOT

OF SPECIALISTS FIND, THAT MANYOF THESE KIDS

HAVE A DEEP EMOTIONAL CORETHAT'S QUITE POWERFUL AND

CERTAINLY OWEN DOES AND THE ONLYWAY IT COULD EMERGE WAS THROUGH

THIS PATHWAY.

>> RIGHT.

>> SO, YOU KNOW, SO WE BECAMEANIMATED CHARACTERS.

THAT'S HOW WE LIVED.

>> AND MAYBE IT'S A QUESTION OFFINDING AS MANY PATHWAYS AS YOU

CAN.

>> LOOK, IT COULD BE A SLIGHTLYMORE HOPEFUL FUTURE BECAUSE, YOU

KNOW, THESE KIDS WILL PULL THESLED. THAT'S THE THING,

WHEN THEY DO THAT, THEY'RE HAPPYAND WE'RE HAPPY.

>> ABSOLUTELY. THANK YOU, SIR.

"LIFE ANIMATED!" ON THE

BOOKSHELVES NOW. RON SUSKIND.GET IT.

(APPLAUSE)

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