Tommy Des Brisay
"The First Fastest Runner" is a short film about Tommy Des Brisay. Tommy is a young man with autism who is known in Ottawa as "the runner with the smile on his face." I've featured both this film and "I See a Des Brisay Fly," another movie about Tommy made by his friend Jordan Kawai, before on this site. I like both of them so much that I want to share them with you again.
Tommy is living a full life as a student and athlete. He is an integral part of his family. I am confident that he will make important contributions to the world. He has autism that is disabling in significant ways. And he believes that autism means "friendship" or "good."
Tommy, his family, and his friends inspire me.
Please-- take ten minutes to watch a Des Brisay fly.
Tommy Des Brisay says that autism means "friendship." Or "good." His mother says he reminds her of Peter Pan-- "If you follow him you kind of get a trip to Neverland."
I first learned about Tommy when I saw a documentary called "The First Fastest Runner." Two of the same Canadian students who produced that superb little film, Jordan Kawai and Dave Jones have joined forces with Emily Feist and Kade Leslie to create "I See a Des Brisay Fly."
When I saw this new film, I was depressed by the lack of affection expressed for Robert MacNeil's grandson Nick in the first segment of his PBS NewsHour series Autism Now. Then I saw this, and was reminded what can happen with a child with autism is treated with absolute love and respect and his parents work to enter his world: Tommy. Or Jacob Barnett, who is attending college at age 12 in part because his parents were taking him to planetariums at age 3.
To me, Tommy is just as impressive as Jacob, He's not a savant-- he's just a really sweet kid who is completely open and trusting. So few of us with autism are truly comfortable in our bodies and with our souls-- I admire his achievement, and I learn about myself from him. Tommy reminds me that autism can mean "friendship" or "good" or "fitness."
He's my hero.
So are his parents, Peter Des Brisay and MaryAnn Given Des Brisay.
I wrote Tommy's mother to tell her how much the new film means to me. This is part of her response:
Tommy's presence in my life is a gift that lifts me up and it seems that there is always another surprise around each corner. I have always felt that Tommy had a message to be shared, and it is my fondest joy to share it, and to know that it is appreciated.
Jordan has known him for many years, and when he came to me last fall and asked if he could film him, I trusted that Jordan would "get it" and the film's message would be true to our family's belief system about Autism. I wanted to celebrate Autism in a way that was accessible to any viewer with an open heart, and hopefully also reach those struggling to open their heart to seeing the beauty that is Autism.
Tommy and filmmaker Jordan Kawai
My new dog
Mathew Ryan Morin has a new video on animals, Mark Zuckerberg got a puppy, Temple Grandin explains how to treat your dog, and I have big personal news.
My boyfriend Max and I have been looking for a new dog for a couple of months now. It's been a surprisingly frustrating process, filled with all the sorts of bigotry Max and I invite (homophobia, ageism, ableism). We've met several dogs, but I'm very glad that we didn't get any of them until yesterday.
We got the perfect dog. She is a black lab, who's seven years old. I'm not going to say her name yet because I want to convince Max to change it, but she's a rescue dog who was used for breeding.
I'm amazed by how quickly I have grown attached to her. She's very needy for affection and attention and loves to press her body against me. It's a little hard for me to function right now because I am so excited and happy. I wasn't expecting this-- I have my cats and I really didn't expect that getting a dog was going to be that big a deal for me. I liked Max's old dog very much and was sad when she died, but she was his, not mine. This girl already feels different.
These videos of when Tommy Des Brisay met his new service dog Adel have been very helpful to me in processing the intensity of my feelings about the situation. Understanding how overwhelming this has been for me has also helped my understanding of how the dog feels. We are really enjoying each other.
Adel meets Tommy
Fans and friends of Tommy Des Brisay (the First Fastest Runner in the World) have been eagerly waiting for the day when he would meet his new dog, Adel. Here are a few videos that show the big event.
A big event like getting a pet or falling in love is like a bright light for me-- it's warm and beautiful, but I can't look at it directly. I have to observe how other things reflect it before my eyes adjust and I can see it for myself. My internal monologue in situations like this is very similar to what Tommy says and does here. That makes these videos almost painfully honest for me to watch.
I'm really grateful to Tommy and his family for sharing them.
If you aren't familiar with Arman Khodaei, this is an excellent introduction to his work. Arman is a counselor and advocate for people with autism who does a podcast and a prolific YouTube channel. He is consistently smart, sane, and well-informed.
Arman is also an excellent role model for young people with autism. If you know a kid with Aspergers or autism who needs to understand that their autism can be a positive thing, please let them know about Arman and some of these other young people I've featured recently on thAutcast:
Carly Fleischmann: Blogger
Aidan Guerra: Top Cadet
And, please, if you know any people with autism who who doing great or interesting things, let me know about them.