I didn't think my daughter cared about having friends and then I discoverd her doing this in her room one day.
Out of my five fabulous children, three of them have been diagnosed with autism. My oldest daughter is somewhat of a diva. She is very independent and has her own way, and time of doing things. She has a super strong will which conflicts with my own will. It is this independent spirit that makes her so lovable (and challenging) to raise.
Usually my daughter can be found in front of a computer, watching Youtube videos of her favorite pop stars. She has always loved certain Disney movies. One Saturday, she was alone in her room watching one. I noticed the giggles, squeals and jumping stopped and then I heard the sound that no mother wants to hear; a whimper and then full on crying. I walked into her room and asked her whats wrong. She didn't respond. I asked, "are you sad?" Through the tears she started to sing along with character on the screen. As she often does, my daughter rewound the videotape (yes we are talking VHS) back to the beginning of the song.
With my oldest child, I figured out long ago that he would often use Disney movies as a communication tool. When angry, he would play a part featuring Scar from the Lion King. It dawned on me that my daughter may be doing the same thing. So I stopped talking to her and I looked at the television and listened.
The movie? The Little Mermaid.
The song, "Part of Your World."
The lyrics she kept rewinding;
I wanna be where the people are
I wanna see, wanna see them dancin'
Walking around on those - what do you call 'em?
Oh - feet!
Flippin' your fins, you don't get too far
Legs are required for jumping, dancing
Strolling along down a - what's that word again?
Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wanderin' free - wish I could be
Part of that world
I started to cry too.
Here was this beautiful child whose claim to fame is doing her own thing. In her own world. Clearly that was not the case. I was saddened by the thought of her watching kids around her doing things that she wanted to be apart of and her not being able to participate. Inclusion is not just about classrooms its about being apart of your community and your peers and being accepted for who you are. Many times we offer inclusion with a cost. The cost being that the individual must conform to our standards of behavior. How ridiculous is that?
It is largely a myth that individuals with autism live in their own world. It is my humble opinion that people on the autism spectrum as varied and different as each one is, want friends and experiences just like we all do. I know this is true for my daughter.
In part 2, I'll tell you about how my daughter started to become part of that world.