I have many things for which I am thankful. One of the most important things in my life that I cherish is my large extended family. Acceptance of Debbie and acceptance of her Autism is crucial for me. We are truly fortunate to have a family who loves and accepts Debbie.
Yesterday we went to my cousin’s Bat Mitzvah. Deb sat appropriately through the service with minimal disruption. The party was at night. It was loud. There were lasers. It could have been a sensory disaster. It wasn’t. Several times Debbie was found in the middle of the dance floor dancing with family, dancing by herself, dancing in between the professional dancers on the stage. She ran up to random people saying, “Hello,” and wishing them congratulations. She took breaks when she needed to take breaks. At one point my cousin’s son pulled her onto the dance floor so she could be in the group photo. I was overcome with gratitude and appreciation for this small gesture. Unfortunately, at the end of the night, I could not find my cousins to personally thank them and express my appreciation. I told my other cousin what had happened and how it made me feel. He looked at me and said, “You don’t have to thank us because we are family and we don’t see Debbie as different. She is one of us. She’s family and we treat her no differently than any other kid. The way I act and talk with her is how I talk to all the kids. I fully recognize that she is autistic and I am not ignorant to what that means. So even though we won’t have conversations and she doesn’t always understand what I tell her to do, it has been great to see how she has progressed in her behaviors over the years and how she really enjoys being with family. She’s fun to be with and she makes us smile when she runs over to us. So it’s important to me to make her a part of the family.”
Wow! And this is the norm in my family. Debbie is, well, just simply Debbie. It does not matter that she has Autism. What matters is that she is happy. What matters is that she is engaged. What matters is that she is included. What matters is that she is accepted and acknowledged. And for that I am grateful.