Photo courtesy of Disney and Marvel copyright 2014
I Am Groot
When I watch television, movies, and even the news in April, I see lots of stories and information about autism. I am aware that April is Autism Awareness month, for my family autism isn’t relegated to one month, rather it is every day, every month, every year. We are more aware of autism than the average family. My son, Ryan has autism.
When I have asked people, who are not as aware as I am about autism, what they think autism is? They point to characters on television shows, movies, and children and adults in the media, who have autism. Nearly every single person, or character, with autism is high functioning. Prime examples are Forrest Gump, Max from Parenthood, Dr. Latham from “Chicago Med,” even the kid who shot all the baskets, the kid who was voted homecoming king. The media turns a blind eye towards people with autism, who are not high functioning. My son is one of those people. Until very recently, there are no mention of lower functioning adults and children in the movies, television, or even in the news. In 2014, Marvel Comics finally produced a movie that showed a character with limited speech in a very positive light.
You may ask who? My answer is “I am Groot.” We first saw the first “Guardians of The Galaxy” movie a few years ago, and my daughter was the first to notice that Groot was my son. She said that our family was Rocket. For those that do not know comic book, Marvel, or the movies, I’ll explain. Groot and Rocket are a pair of bounty hunters that are looking for Star Lord. Groot is played by Vin Diesel. Rocket is voiced by Bradley Cooper. Groot is a large tree creature. The only thing he says throughout the entire movie is— “I am Groot.” His partner Rocket, a walking, talking raccoon, translates based on context, body language, and intonation what every “I am Groot” means. That’s what we do with my son. Our family has become master interpreters for our son. We know the meaning behind every phrase.
My son on the other hand is just like Groot, from his mannerisms to his monotonous speech, but he is also like Groot in other aspects. Groot defends his friends with ferocity. He has a really wicked sense of humor, and pretty good dance moves. At the end of the movie, Groot sacrifices himself for his friends. He grows into a dome that protects the rest of the Guardians from dying while their ship crashes. While he grows, he transforms the environment to a beautiful starlit dome. And he says one phrase while sacrificing himself, “We are Groot.” This statement makes Rocket realizes Groot’s intention, and he begs him not to sacrifice himself. In the epilogue we see a new baby Groot, who dances and sings to “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5. Like Groot, my son is brave, strong, caring, with a wicked sense of humor, he is smart, and when he says something, often it is so profound and meaningful.
In the waning days of the month of April, I changed my profile picture to Baby Groot. I have posted “I am Groot” (sometimes I include emojis to show my mood) at random times throughout the day. I have responded to other people’s posts with “I am Groot.” Most people haven’t asked me why, some think that I’m being facetious, sarcastic, or I’m just a moron. To the few that have asked why, I messaged them my reasoning (I have also posted it on my wall), and I encourage other parents to do the same to bring awareness of children (and adults) with autism and other developmental disabilities with limited language skills. So in honor of my son, Ryan, “We are Groot.”