|Declyn / Kenickie|
DECLYN: "Could you feel it? Could you feel Kenickie's sadness when Rizzo pushed him away? Was I showing the hurt?"
My son played the role of Kenickie in our local high school's production of Grease. It was amazing! My son was brilliant and so was the entire cast and crew.
ME: "Yes, Declyn, I could. You did great."
When he was younger his hyper-empathy made him afraid to be out in the world. He hugged my leg tight and felt all the feelings. Sometimes it would be wonderful for him, particularly since I was sensitive to his sensitivities so chose our outings carefully, and mostly joy and comfort would be felt. However, too often other people's feelings of hurt or fear would be taken on by him. And so he avoided crowds - playlands and birthday parties, and he built (with purpose) an exhausting persona he could wear to school. A place where the passions run wild; unpredictable and caged into an unnatural setting.
DECLYN: "I don't know, I think I can do better. I didn't fully feel it this time. Kenickie acts cool, but he's really hurt."
Over the years he (with only a tiny bit of guidance from me and the many other grown-ups in his world) has found ways to best handle and even take advantage of his hyper-empathy. Leadership roles help because he can take over and push his uplifting belief in everyone onto the group. Of course, he's a teenager so this is sometimes done in an unbalanced way, but the idea is sound.
ME: "Well, you know I'll be at all three performances so I'll let you know if we feel it different as an audience next time."
But the role of actor seems to suit him gorgeously! He can channel that hyper-empathy, examine it, wear it on stage, and then cast it off at the end of the show. Even though his empathy isn't easily cast off (or he would likely have learned to do that long ago) he can consider moments of overwhelming emotion shared from others as learnings, as research. As an actor, you do feel other's feelings. You feel them and you harness them and you show them. Then, you put them away.
DECLYN: "Thanks! It's not as challenging as it could have been. The girl playing Rizzo is good so it makes it easier for me."
Acting could be a dangerous thing for someone with his social challenge - a hyper-empathy mixed with a strong feeling of self-importance - but it can also be a brilliant place for exploring and channeling and using his passion wisely.
ME: "Ya, you have a great cast! It's fantastic to see how well you all work together. The way you help each other shine."
As a mom watching her youngest son sort out who he is and how to make the best of that, well, I'm overwhelmed with love, happiness, and gratitude to watch him choose to make acting brilliant for himself.
Also, I'm totally lucky to have been in the audience for Grease (three times!!) and can't wait for their next production!!
I hope with all of my heart that you and your loved ones are always able to discover ways to bring out the best in your gifts/challenges!!
Hugs, smiles, and love!!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) www.tsarashelton.com / www.fourbrothersoneworld.com