Monday, February 11, 2013

The Girl with the Golden Shoes

She has an amazing spirit, and I wish I could remember her name. She lit up when she talked about playing her music, agreeing the stage helps build confidence. I’ll forever remember her face, as my mind takes literal snapshots of life’s experiences.

Yes, I, too, think in pictures.

It was a humbling conversation. I’d just finished talking on stage to a packed room of moms, dads, educators and others about raising a daughter on the autism spectrum, with my husband by my side at times. A daunting task, as 90 minutes can hardly scratch the surface just as an entire month can hardly explain even one woman!

Anyone who can do that will win a Nobel Prize in…pretty much every category.

But in 90 short minutes we sparked a conversation that needs to gain momentum.

Part of what I chose to talk about was the girls who fly under the radar, often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Story after story I continue to receive from those on the spectrum, themselves, tells us we need to do better. Too many fall through the cracks, living so much of life not knowing why they don’t quite “fit”. It’s been said these special young women have a higher rate of suicide than the general population - a stat I’m chasing and vowing to expose.

Saturday’s task was a daunting one, knowing that others in the crowd are living the very life I was talking about. And others were walking different paths with altogether different issues, hungering for answers, too.

“Girls are often bullied without knowing it in the moment, as they cannot read social cues,” I related, “but one day they will know. They will understand.” Such difficult words to speak, as I’ve watched my very own daughter walk this path.

The girl with the golden shoes admitted to me this happened to her, too. For years, her autism made her blind to bullying from her peers, as well as identifying friendships. But she is doing better now. Autism, does, indeed, grow up.

I’m not an emotional person by nature, but recalling our conversation brings me near tears. To provide voice for these girls is what it’s all about.

To the girl with the golden shoes, I say, “Thank you!” You remind me why I do what I do. And I am truly humbled. And there is, indeed, a lot of work to do.

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