Go With the Flow

When The Autism Channel asked us to create some one-minute pieces for Autism Awareness month, we thought it would be good for Sam (Rocket) to tell one on himself. Sam has always had supersonic ears. But we soon learned that sensitive hearing does not equate to listening. Part of what distracted him was that he was hearing his own heartbeat, the sound of ventilation systems, the sounds of ticking clocks—things you and I would normally filter into the background of our conscious awareness. Sounds like these were as front and center to him as human speech directed at him. He simply was unable to filter any sound from the Surround Sound™ of life.

…his attention to the world of sound…
“the music of the world around him.”

He was steeped in his autistic world and we were trying to reach him. We could see that he was distracted by sounds it seemed we simply couldn’t hear. As his parents, we felt we could find a path to relating to him by following his attention to sound, what he now calls “the music of the world around him.”

Sam Rubin As Child
Sam Rubin reacting to sounds at 3 years 9 months

This lead to some unusual activities, like riding up and down elevators ad nauseum and listening to the mechanical squeaking sounds of them; like finding all manner of trickling, dripping, leaking, splashing, crashing or running water; like learning how to tune in to the faintest whispers of music in various settings like restaurants, malls, or while driving by other cars.

When I think of where Sam was when we started this journey (the autism part) sixteen or seventeen years ago…had I seen this video of his future self, I would never have believed it possible. To watch him confidently stride along, talking about his sensory issues and acknowledging the depth of the impact his parents’ playing together with him had on him (even when we didn’t “get” the game), I am amazed.

Autism, of course, has changed all of us. Aside from making us stronger, it has also taught us the value of playing. When we made this video this weekend, it was just like…dare I say…the “good old days,” playing with Sam, following him down the rabbit hole to a source of sound that lit him up and made the wild world wonderful for him.

But, it’s not over. As we trudged out to the end of the jetty where the Wave Organ was this past weekend, we passed by The San Francisco Yacht Club maintenance building. There, some men were doing something that had to do with sailboat racing. One guy, looking through binoculars at the sailing boats in the bay, yelled, “Prepare for gun!” We were like…huh? …what? As we looked up, he was brandishing a revolver and wearing ear-protection head gear. Sam got it instantly, held his ears, and hopped away like a bunny. I was still taking in the information when the gun went off.

It was almost like one of those jokes the universe plays on you. In the past, Sam would have completely fallen apart with an event like this. But he handled it and moved on. His dad remarked, “How ironic. Here we are going to make this piece about sound and sensitivity and this gun goes off.” Sam laughed. Wow! Who ever could have guessed that he — and we — would come so far.

Sally Park Rubin is the producer of The Rocket Family Chronicles seen on The Autism Channel

The Return of Rocket

Rocket… Where’ve you been?

In the last month, there’s been a lag in production on The Rocket Family Chronicles set. Why?

The Rocket Family Chronicles was born out of a project entitled “maivens” which is a TV pilot script about four woman-centric families. In order to sell “maivens,” I produced some promo pieces based on the family that most resembled my own—Rocket’s family. By the time we were done shooting it, we all felt that the show really needed to be focused more on Rocket than Maive.SamDetective2

This posed a serious concern for us. Up to this point, we had only operated on a need-to-know basis regarding Sam’s (who plays Rocket) autism because he holds his own as an actor. He’s a consummate entertainer and a serious professional, so his dad and I were concerned about him coming out as an “actor with autism,” since there is still a pervasive lack of understanding about strengths associated with autism.

But by then Sam himself was “coming out” about his situation. And he had just finished writing his book—And Action! My TAKE on Autism (and Life)which chronicles how acting and film making made the world relevant to him and helped to draw him out of autism. We followed his lead. We created the Intro’s and Outro’s to wrap the episodes to make them more Rocket-focused.

Since, we have always looked to the innate intelligence behind whatever stage of autism Sam was experiencing, we weighted the Intro and Outro wrappers to look towards the positive aspects of autism.

We had a limited number of episodes, so we decided to create the Rocket Extras to stretch out the material for The Autism Channel. We felt that the Rocket Extras were a great opportunity to provide insight into some of what we’ve learned as autism parents. We consulted with nutrition expert, Kelly Dorfman, who has helped over many years with Sam’s recovery. She suggested the character Professor Neurotica. We put a wig on Sam and the rest is history.

Recently, we added Sam Snoop Private Eye. Ed Rubin got the idea to make it like Film Noir. It was inspired by The Maltese Falcon. The original working title was The Gut Detective. As a family, we went crazy (but had fun) researching all the Film Noir spots in San Francisco where Humphrey Bogart, Hitchcock and others have shot their films. The upcoming Sam Snoop episode, The Case of the Foggy Brain, has taken almost a month to complete for two reasons: 1) We got a little hyperfocused on the Film Noir concept, and 2) in between, Sam made another film for which he needed to have a beard.

…it’s been a busy month on the Rocket set. Rocket will be back this Friday…

The independent film, directed by Max Sokoloff, was created as a short to be shown at a film club that Sam runs in Berkeley, California at Tom Franco’s Art Collective every other Saturday night. If you’re in the Bay Area, please check out the club.

So, despite the fact that no one’s seen Rocket lately, it’s been a busy month on the Rocket set. Rocket will be back this Friday on The Autism Channel as Sam Snoop Private Eye.

Sally Park Rubin is the producer of The Rocket Family Chronicles one of the most popular series on The Autism Channel.