"If you've met one person with autism - you've met one person with autism"
"No one person on the Spectrum is the same, just as no 2 snowflakes are the same."
Unique, Special, Different
these words have been used to explain my child many times. I'm alright with that. After all, those are some amazing adjectives to describe a person and my child is pretty amazing.
Most of us can relate to or see ourselves and our "quirks" as characters on film or television. We can relate to these characters and we can empathize, laugh, find humor, joy, and maybe even sadness with these characters that remind us how similar we really are.
With an autistic person, I can see that as being challenging. The Spectrum is so wide and vastly unique, just as is the person on the Spectrum itself.
Unique, Special, Different
For example a person on the Spectrum, can be high functioning, low functioning, verbal, nonverbal, the "quirks" and "stims" vary as well
My daughter Zoey is 4 years old, she's nonverbal, and is on the severe end of the Spectrum - low functioning - requiring substantial support.
I've never met anyone quite like her, she's beautiful, strong willed, funny, smart, she has a smile that lights up not just a room - her smile lights up the world.
When Zoey was diagnosed just before her 2nd birthday we were told that she was severe and that there was no guarantee that she would ever speak.
That didn't stop us or her from trying to communicate - we found our own way, a different way.
I had found that music calmed Zoey during the tidal waves of frustration that come along with severe autism.
Music became her therapy and her way of communication, she communicates via song lyrics and songs, and instead of talking or me hearing "her first word"
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was my daughter's first word
So when I had friends messaging me saying that a character reminded them of my child, or that when they saw this character they immediately thought of my Zoey - well, I had to see for myself.
I had to meet this Julia, the 4 year old autistic Sesame Street character, with orange hair and different speech and unique quirks and who seems to really like Elmo, just as Zoey seems to really like Elmo.
She did remind me of Zoey
I watched a video of Julia singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and I was overcome with emotion...that was not Julia...that was Zoey!
I left the room to grab a tissue to dry my face from the happy tears of finally seeing a character who was so much like my child.
I came back into the room where I saw Zoey sitting on the couch watching the video of Julia singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with her friend Elmo. I watched as she replayed this video over and over
My child met someone just like her
Thank you Sesame Street
Thank you PBS
That is Inclusion
That is Awareness
That is Autism
That is Julia
She is Zoey