Lumen is a very happy eight-year-old, non-verbal, autistic boy who primarily uses gesture to communicate. He says a few words, although not always in context. He conveys his needs and emotions, as well as self-regulates by spinning, flapping his hands, jumping, swinging, chewing various objects, and using facial expressions. Lumen suffers from sensory processing disorder which translates into him being very sensitive to sound, light, temperature, and texture. He learns about his environment through touch and also by licking objects. He has difficulty with transitions, being flexible in situations, and understandably, being misunderstood. It is during these times that he harms others and himself. All of this makes his participation in Flute Theatre’s activities all the more profound. He has been given tools not offered anywhere else. He has been given a sense of security and familiarity, which for an autistic child, are not always easy to come by. He said ‘Hello’ for the first time after listening to Heartbeat Hellos for weeks; he was captivated for the entire hour of Pericles online; he smiled, laughed, and even emulated facial expressions of actors; and he has sung some of the songs he has heard from Flute’s Soundcloud as a way to self-regulate or to express joy.
-Lisha Aquino Rooney, Lumen’s mother-
“Flute has been working with Lumen for a long time ago. I started working with him when I joined the Company in October 2020. We used to have work sessions with him once a week and we used to adapt the play just too very very simple games. Most of the times, we just keep doing heartbeats hellos. Finally, after Kelly realize Lumen’s mom Lisha was struggling with the lockdown and Lumen we started to play with him every single day, just 20 minutes every afternoon. Lumen used to run through the house, going from one room to the other, spinning in his swig, and allays wearing his ear defenders. However, every week you played with him, you could see some improvement. Last day I played with him, he was absolutely calmed, without his ear defenders, and he stayed with me, in front of the screen all the time and, mostly, looking at me. At the end of the session, I shared my impressions with Lisha and it was so happy and grateful. The best thing of all this, is than nobody knows where the limits are. So we will keep pushing and pushing to improve these lives as much as we can.
-Alfons Nieto, Actor-
Lumen is a ball of energy. I never thought I could ever match his level of energy or make him play any of the games. I always saw him running around the room and I remembered Holly running after him. In the second lockdown, Lumen joined us for a few shows of Pericles online. During those shows, I saw Lumen going from being non verbal in the first ones, to saying doyyinngg and hellos at the end. There were times when we only did hellos, and he would sit on his swing and watch us do heartbeats. One of my major highlights with Lumen was on one of the days of the second Lockdown, when he came on Instagram Live for soothing Hearbeats, and played with me. He just made my day being there.
-Mohit Mathur, Actor-
I first played with Lumen a little over two and a half years ago when I was still a student at Drama Centre. I remember noticing him with his lovely momma, Lisha, outside our circle of heartbeats, slapping his hands together. I remember being so impressed by his ability to create such an interesting and consistent rhythm, without ever missing his mark, like an orchestral percussionist. Even though Lumen wasn’t going to sit in the circle any time soon, his heart was beating in time with our hearts. His drumming hands, filling the silences between our hellos, showed us this.
I continued to play with Lumen for years. Although Lumen didn’t necessarily want to sit down, or tip, or doiyoiyoiyoing with us for the first year or so, the drama of the games lived in him. Lumen’s laughter, his cheeky moments of eye contact, even his giggling responses to run and hide were all part of the point of ecstasy that Kelly so often talks about. It was always in these moments, where Titania first sees Bottom, where Thaisa is lost to the sea, where Helena again catches Demetrius’ eyes to tell him she loves him, that Lumen would react. He could feel the tempo changes and the surges in pitch as we performed. He was already playing with us, just with a different set of instructions and responses.
All the while, Lumen learnt more about us and became more comfortable. It goes without saying that people with autism often struggle in new environments, but we were asking Lumen to trust us and love us like a family, and these things take time for us all. Some people, autistic or otherwise, never find the freedom to love and trust as we do at Flute.
In January 2020, after years of offering my hand to Lumen and asking him to sit in the circle with me, he took my hand and immediately sat on my lap as if he had always done this. We often talk about the offer, whether it is of a hand, a line, or the energy we hold within ourselves that we give to other people. It is crucial for us as actors to look after what we are offering to our participants. Holding anxiety in our bodies can make our participants anxious. Fear of being hit can bring about exactly that which we fear. It is this way with everyone, regardless of where we sit on the autistic spectrum. If you tell someone that they are limited to playing a certain role, they will almost certainly play that role for you. The reason I say this is because every time I offered my hand to Lumen, I have always expected him to take it. The offer is in every muscle, every gesture, every thought. It’s just that, on that day in January, he actually did that for the first time. And, while Lumen sat perfectly unsurprised, tipping, playing the games in the circle, we cried.
This, if anything, meant the beginning of the pandemic hit me all the harder. I had been playing with Lumen for years and it felt so unfair that, now, in a great wave of progress, we were suddenly no longer allowed to play together. However, Flute did not rest long, and before even the first lockdown was announced, Hepz and I were singing heartbeat hellos for an hour every day on Instagram. It was during this time that Lisha sent us videos of Lumen, obviously engaged and participating in the heartbeats, and not long after that, the lucky, incredible film of his first hello.
-Holly Musgrave, Actor-
Our personal heroes, during lockdown – are Flute Theatre. During this crisis, they have helped us and the entire autistic community EVERY SINGLE DAY, WITHOUT FAIL.