Extreme Love … autism documentary

I watched a Louis Theroux documentary –  Extreme Love.

I really enjoy Louis Theroux’s documentaries (they are usually featured on BBC).  I like that he does not supply a general loose overview – he  focuses on a few families or individuals, and then delves into those families and what they are going through or their experiences.  I enjoy his slightly off beat style.

The documentary – Extreme Love – follows Louis Theroux as he journeys to America to spend time with several families whose children were pupils at New Jersey’s Development Learning Center, an innovative autism school.

One of the most memorable children who Louis interviewed, was a 13-year-old Joey.

His disorder meant he was prone to shrieking and violent tantrums. His scenes made for particularly difficult viewing: at one point, when Joey was being physically restrained by his mother, Theroux asked if she’d like him to stop filming. “No,” the mother replied, tellingly. “I want people to see what autism is really like.”

Extreme Love focused on the parents of the children, what they thought and what they were going through.  Paula, an exhausted mother of autistic twins, was especially candid: “I just try and make them happy, because, God forgive me, I don’t get a lot of enjoyment from them,” she said, sorrowfully.  I think she was the most candid, the most honest – the most heart wrenching.

The moms who were featured did look frayed, and exhausted.  I started to wonder “how would I cope if that was me…?”

I don’t think I could.  I don’t think I would.

I find raising my three children “normal kids” IMMENSELY difficult, challenging and some days I fall down in a heap and wonder why the hell did I choose to have children.

Did I really give this enough thought before setting out on this particular journey?

I get so many moments of pure joy, that warm milky warmth, that love that spills out of every one of my pores when I see my children, clean, quiet and safe and soundly asleep.  I really am not sure I could cope if it was harder.

The phrase I heard a few times in this documentary and from moms who are “challenged” is “God does not give us more than we deserve or can deal with…” I really am not so sure.

My personal set of beliefs does not believe that God gives us things – the death of a child, the sickness of a child, the mental or physical challenges that face a child.

I believe things happen and then we deal with them, either well, or not so well, depending on our resources available to us.

I enjoyed the documentary.  It reminded me that parents go through so much more than we know and realise, and can fully appreciate.

And no I don’t really have a point for this post.



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  1. I was a special needs mom for 11 months and even though my daughter is no longer with us, I will always be a special needs mom. Kendra had Jacobsen Syndrome and although we could make her laugh by shaking our heads and pulling faces, she did not pay me any more attention than anyone else. There was no special bond felt that I was her mom and got extra love from her. In that respect I can relate to many moms of autistic children as that seems to be one of the hardest things to deal with. I was in a support group and most of the moms in the group felt the same way, we are not given only what we can deal with. That is nonsense, what about the special needs children that are abused or abandoned? Their parents were given more than they could handle, what is so special about some of us that we should think that way? Anyway, just wanted to add my 2c worth. Here is Kendra – http://www.kendrameiring.blogspot.com

    • reluctantmom

       /  April 3, 2013

      I didn’t know.
      I just went to read Kendra’s blog – from the beginning to the end, crying, sobbing!!! I had no idea.

      • Wow, you read fast. Time does heal although I sometimes read about the problems other special needs moms have with a little bit of envy. I would sometimes give anything to have those problems. Then there are other times I am relieved that I don’t and then feel guilty! And you know, you say that you don’t think you would cope with more than normal kids, but you know, I also thought that and I coped. Admittedly I only had 11 months of it and my burdens were not nearly so bad as many others. Now whenever I find myself getting overly miserable about my ‘normal’ 3year olds high energy and over enthusiastic kissing and hugging (he does go overboard sometimes) then I think about Kendra and how he is kissing for her too. And when I start thinking how boring and mundane life is, doing the same thing every day, then I remember how I so badly wished for things to change back then, then they did but not in the way I expected, and I just count my blessings.
        But don’t you worry, I still have my moments and in no way think any less or any more of anyone who has dealt with something different in their lives. Oh my god, I am rambling now, sorry, your post has been doubly hijacked today!!

  2. Being a mother of a cerebral palsy child, I related to this programme. It’s so real it’s unsettling. I can understand the mom that said she tries to keep her twins happy because she doesn’t get a lot of joy out of them. It doesn’t happen often, but I feel that sometimes. Sometimes I wake up and think, I’ve got to get up and do this all over again today. But for the most part, and that’s 95% of the time, she’s a joy and a happy child. One just has to adjust ones parametres thats all, of what you expect from her.

    For me it wasn’t so much the cerebral palsy that upset me, but it was the dashing of dreams, the end of a path for a child as you would expect it. Like shopping, like matric farewell dresses, like walking her down the aisle, like shopping for a wedding dress etc. A dream that was dashed. Nothing more, nothing less. Oh and not being able to buy her pretty shoes. That cracks me. Molly can only wear her orthopedic shoes.

    But we all have stuff to deal with. In The Secret Daughter the author talks about infertility as being the tragedy, not about the inability in having kids. You can adopt, you can surrogate but you can’t heal that deep wound of being infertile. My point is, is that everyone has stuff to deal with.

    When people tell us that “special people have special kids”, I vomit a bit in my mouth. What do they mean? I don’t want to be special. Since Molly was born I love ordinary. I ADORE ordinary. I hold it in the highest esteem.

    In Extreme Love – by Louis Theroux, he strips it down to the bare essentials of Autism. I cannot believe that there isn’t sometimes joy from the autistic kids.

    I don’t know but it’s a long life and you have to choose, happy or sad? I choose happy. I refuse to let Molly’s life not be meaningful. I thank God she was given to us because one thing she has taught us is to see the world differently. You feel things so deeply with Molly. She evokes that in you.

    I’m sorry to hijack your page but….I just wanted to have a bit of a verbal outburst!

    • reluctantmom

       /  April 2, 2013

      Thank you for the verbal outburst — as usual you are able to phrase a thought so well, and you often offer me a viewpoint I had not considered. I do think you have hit the nail on the head about having a child who is not in line with your expectations dashes your dreams, and that is often the hardest thing to over come.

      In Extreme Love there was a young man – I think he was 17 or 19 years old – called Nick (if I recall) and he was an absolute joy to his mother. When asked if she could have Nick without the autism, she said no, because that is part of who he is, and Nick does things that no other child could do.

  3. I know what you mean and I don’t adhere to that “God doesn’t give us ….” thing either.


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