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blog pic I’m thankful for so many things. I cherish my large extended family. Acceptance of Debbie and acceptance of her autism is crucial for me. We’re truly fortunate to have a family who loves and accepts my daughter.

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 couldn’t 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 this:

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 doesn’t matter that she has autism. What matters is that she’s happy. What matters is she’s engaged with her surroundings. What matters is she’s included. What matters is she’s accepted and acknowledged.  And for that I am grateful.

This post originally appeared on Autism With a Side of Ketchup.

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