“I have enough information to make an official diagnosis of autism.” Those words hit me like a punch to the gut. My son was just 23 months old when he was diagnosed. He was delayed on several key development milestones. In the almost four years since that diagnosis, my wife and I have watched him grow and struggle, learn how to speak and then regress, losing every word he had. We’ve had therapists in and out of our home nearly 5 days a week, most weeks for 3 years. But the most important aspects in relation to this story are the fact he’s nonverbal and his sensitivity to sound.
In “Loop”, a boy named Marcus is tasked with taking a girl named Renee on a canoe trip on the camp lake. Marcus is a chatty boy who doesn’t want to take the nonverbal Renee on the lake. Through the trip, he gets a firsthand experience of how hard it is to communicate with someone who clearly knows what they want, but isn’t able to communicate it. It starts with both Marcus and Renee getting frustrated. Renee is finally able to communicate through emoji on her phone that she wants to row by the restrooms. Once Marcus gets her in the area, it becomes clear she likes the way the grass growing through the water feels. My son has his own version of this. When we go to certain places, he must lay on the floor and put his face on it. He’s done this on hardwood, porcelain tile and carpet. Once, my son is satisfied with how the floor feels on his face, he acts like he’s in a safe place. Watching “Loop”, I got the feeling Renee needed Marcus to take her to the grass to feel like she could trust him. That allowed him to show her other places on the lake.
While finally being able to bond, this led to Marcus’ mistake. Renee had been using her cell phone to make a noise she liked. Marcus, noticing this, takes her into a tunnel that he knows will echo. He’s trying to be a good guide and give her something that it seems like she’ll like. But many on the autism spectrum, including my son and Renee, have a heightened sensitivity to sound. The echo becomes too loud for Renee and she starts having a meltdown that causes the canoe to crash. What Marcus didn’t understand, and what I’ve had to learn myself, is in that moment, a child on the spectrum is looking for comfort and doesn’t know where to find it. In “Loop”, Renee throws her phone at Marcus and into the lake, then runs and hides under the canoe on shore. For my son, he will run up and down the hall in our house, throwing himself on the floor, throwing things he normally loves on the floor, sometimes breaking them, and screaming at the top of his lungs.
Eventually, Renee calms down enough on her own that Marcus can give her a few blades of grass like she enjoyed on the lake. It’s a beautiful moment of trust and an acknowledgement that despite her inability to talk, she has found a way to communicate with him. With my son, he has to start calming down from his meltdown on his own. That’s when I can give him juice, an applesauce or his favorite TV show and sit with him, letting him know I’m there for him.
On its own, “Loop” is a beautifully animated, wonderfully voiced story. The choice to use an actual nonverbal girl for Renee to illustrate the sounds she’s able to get out, even if they aren’t words, is excellent and inspired. But, when you look through the eyes of an autism parent, the story becomes greater. I’ve recommended this short to friends and family to help them understand the struggle our family goes through as we try to understand my son and help him get through his every day life.
I, personally, give “Loop” 5 out of 5 stars. My hope is anyone who watches it learns more about the struggle of autism and comes away with a better understanding, as well as a want to help.
But, my question is, what do you think of “Loop”?