Dear Superintendent, Principal, teachers, parents, girls and maybe even the mayor,
When my daughter began high school I was not worried about late night parties or dating or even her grades. I was worried about her being accepted for who she is. I was worried that, in a sea of students who didn’t know her, she might be bullied or alone at the lunch table or lost in a busy hallway. We have known for a while that college would not be in her future so have worked towards goals like independence and confidence and happiness instead.
Tuesday night was Senior Night for the girls varsity soccer team Ashlyn has been helping with during her high school years. Ashlyn will be moving on to a post-high program next year and the team included her in the evening just as they did the other seniors. I had to squint a little and then blink back tears as I saw the warm up jerseys the girls were wearing, homemade shirts honoring their seniors, Ashlyn’s Special Olympics jersey number painted on the back.
I know to these girls this was a small gesture, but to us it was so much more. They could have easily only honored the players but they chose to include my daughter as well. Their actions told her that being a part of the team is so much more than playing on the field. When her name was called the cheers were loud and my child who turns from loud noise, smiled wide and ran through their tunnel with pride.
Teenage girls often get a bad rap for their tendency towards cliques and attitudes and pushing the dress code limits but this team has shown nothing but integrity and understanding. I’m not sure they will ever know how far their acts of kindness will carry my daughter. Her memories of high school will not be of the noisy halls or the days her anxiety took over, but of the soccer team that gave what I have wanted for her since the day she received an autism diagnosis…
With more gratitude than I could ever express,