The Moment That Made Her Stop Hiding Her Autism and Start Advocating
I’ll never forget the pain on my daughter’s face when she realized she was being made fun of once again. My daughter, Bree, has high-functioning autism and when stressed or concentrating, she tends to rock her head from side to side. One evening, we were racing to an appointment and stopped at a red light. A car of local high school boys drove up alongside us and began laughing and rocking their heads, mimicking her rocking motion. As the light changed and we moved forward, the realization they were mocking her hit her like a ton of bricks.
The pain was evident in the tears that flowed from her eyes. I tried to hold back my own tears and suppress the utter feeling of complete hopelessness in society that was consuming me.
For years, Bree didn’t want people to know she had autism, even though I felt the truth was better than her being misunderstood by her peers or called cruel names behind her back. Often she sits in the back row at school so as not to bring attention to her rocking. Bree’s head rocking was often the target of her classmates’ jokes. With social media, it was even used against her when her first boyfriend changed his relationship status to include her name. It wasn’t “that’s awesome” or “congrats”; it was mean comments about how she rocked or was different.
The night of the car incident, she decided to post a status on social media because she was so hurt and lost hope. Here’s what part of her post said:
“I’m so sick of people these days. So immature. I’m sick of people making fun of me because of my autism. I’ve been rocking my head since I was 6 months old. It’s something I have to because of my autism. I hope it makes you feel so good to make fun of somebody with a disability…”
To her surprise, she received over 200 likes from peers who normally never acknowledged her. Those “likes” restored our faith in humanity and from that moment on, Bree no longer hides her autism. She spends her time advocating for those with special needs. She’s a NISRA/Special Olympics athlete and global messenger, and through speeches and projects like “Reach Up,” she tries to show the world all that those with disabilities can do instead of focusing on what they can’t do. She hopes society can continue to appreciate everyone, even those who are different.
The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment when you were at a hospital and a medical staffer, fellow patient or a stranger made a negative or surprising comment that caught you off guard. How did you respond to it? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.