Ashlyn came home Friday with a new bowling shirt. She hates getting her picture taken but she wanted a photo of the front and back and waited while I sent the picture to her Papa.
I talked her into changing out of it for dinner and she even almost hung it up so it would look nice for her Special Olympic’s tournament. On Saturday she posed for a picture with her sister, then with her bowling lane in the background and then again with her third place ribbon (yay!). If you were to spend ten hours looking through the photos threatening to take over our entire hard drive you would notice that the photos of Ashlyn are few and far between. If you were working on recognizing patterns and finding what is the same and different like my kindergarteners are you would notice that, in every smiling picture of Ashlyn she is wearing some type of team shirt. In every almost-turning-away or completely-avoiding-eye-contact photo she is not.
Last week I finally hid her five year-old track and field sweatshirt so that it would not be in her constant rotation of outfits and on Halloween I had to break it to her that the soccer jersey from her first year of Special Olympics would not fit as a costume.
Like many kids with autism, Ashlyn likes her time alone. She needs doses of quiet and calm and a schedule that involves her daily must-do’s on the computer. But she also needs to belong.
People with special needs come in all shapes, sizes and abilities. Some can talk, some can’t, some walk or drive or can’t hear. They may join your conversation or butt in or never say a word. They may sit in a corner or run from one wall to the other or wiggle their hand through your hair without asking.
You may not be sure what they need or what they want or what you should do next. I’m not an expert but I can tell you what I would want you to do for my own daughter, as her mom. I would want you to know that what is going on in her mind is just as important as what is going on in your own. She feels and understands just as much as you do, maybe even more.
I would want you to listen to her in the days when she couldn’t talk and help her run when she was trying very hard to walk.
I would want you to think about your life, the circles of friends you have, the things that you do and maybe find a place for her.
Then hand her a team shirt with her name on it and her favorite number on the back, she will be the most loyal teammate you’ve ever had.
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