My middle daughter was desperate to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie so she and I had a girl’s night out and enjoyed it immensely. Watching this movie caused us to start talking about other Disney movies. I have 4 daughters, so we have seen all the princess movies, some over and over. One of my favorites is The Little Mermaid. You know the story: The little mermaid, Ariel, is a precocious mermaid who really wants to be part of the human world. She loves everything about the way they do things even though she does not always understand. Remember the scene when she brushes her hair with a fork?
The story goes that she makes a deal with the sea witch to become human. She had been watching Prince Eric and fell in love with him and desperately wanted to be a part of his world (Can you hear the music?) She becomes a human and she meets her Dreamboat, Prince Eric, however there is a catch. She had to give up her voice to be human. She is unable to communicate with him. She cannot tell him what she thinks or what she feels. She has some great friends however, Sebastian and Flounder, who try to help her show Prince Eric who she really is. They want Eric to see her beauty and her heart. Even though Ariel cannot speak, Eric knows there’s something special about her and begins to fall in love with her. He sees the truth. He sees her beautiful nature.
In many ways, Cadence (my daughter with Autism) is like Ariel. She is in a world that she cannot always understand. She has lost her voice and is unable to speak the truth of how she feels or what she wants. But she has some great support: friends, siblings, family, teachers and therapists who are constantly helping the world see her true beauty and her heart. They want the world to see who she is. To know that she is special.
On Sunday morning, we have a routine at our house. Dad goes to work super early because he’s the preacher and then I try to stay sane while getting the rest of the kids out the door. We live next door to the church, so I can send them on to church ahead of me. I send the other 4 off to the fellowship Café and Sunday school while Cadence and I stay behind because Sunday school combined with the worship service is a long time for her. Once the other kids are out the door I catch my breath and then I begin to get ready for worship. Cadence knows this routine well. After the other kids go, she goes into my room and sits on my bed and waits for me to come and get my clothes together. While I’m in the shower she sits on the toilet and waits for me to get finished. While I’m getting my contacts in and brushing my teeth and putting on my makeup she stands beside me at the mirror and she waits for me. All the while she is in watching and learning. This is only a Sunday thing when it is just her and I in the house. The rest of the week there is a lot of activity and crazy so I was wondering why she was so stuck to me on Sundays. Then I realized that she did not want to be left alone in the living room while I got ready. She desperately wants to be a part of my world. She is always watching, always learning. Even though, like Ariel, she can sometimes be a fish out of water, not understanding how things work (although she has never brushed her hair with a fork she has done some other wild things), she still desperately wants to be a part of our world.
As April ends and we wrap up Autism Awareness Month, I just want to remind the world that individuals with Autism are amazing. They may not have their voice, and they may not always understand how our world works, but if you look close and are patient, you can see the truth of who they are. You can see the real beauty. You can see their heart. You will see that though they are different, they are never, ever less.
They are so often misunderstood, but desperately want to be a part of our world. Embrace them and let them join in.