How a High School Musical Gave My Autistic Son a Stage

This was the toddler who could not wear hats or mittens and who struggled with the change of seasons because that meant wearing different or new clothes. The little boy who wore the same doctor’s costume (shirt only) for three Halloweens in a row because costumes and change were terrifying.

This was the elementary student who sat alone at lunch and stood by the door at recess afraid of thunderstorms, bugs and the possibility of an ill-fated social encounter. This was the middle schooler who almost didn’t audition for Chambers Singers because it was new and taking risks was difficult for him to handle. The middle schooler who couldn’t wear cargo shorts and khaki pants like other kids because his body just wouldn’t allow it. This was a new high school freshman who felt like he was invisible and that no one knew he existed within the walls of his high school.

This is a teenager who still worries about taking risks (because sometimes things don’t go as you plan), but overcame that worry and took a risk by auditioning for his high school musical where he has never danced a step in his life. A teenager who once felt like he didn’t belong yet now declares his fellow cast members family.” A teenager who told his directors and his parents that he has “never felt so confident and proud of himself in his entire life” as he did tonight on that stage taking risks.

This is my autistic son.

Crushing stereotypes, destroying fallacies, proving “experts” wrong and showing every single person on that stage and in that audience the real meaning behind “different, not less.”

The most important person he proved that to, was himself.

The lady clinging to this teenager is his mother. A mother who felt her face would crack from smiling every time he walked onto that stage. A mother who remembers the toddler who struggled with change, the little boy who was so worried and anxious, the middle schooler who wanted to find his place, and the new freshman who felt so isolated. A mother who now sees a teenager demonstrating confidence, pride and joy in a way the two of them once only dreamed about, by taking a risk, by stepping way outside his comfort zone and by believing in himself.

Mother and son hugging, with son in costume from school play

Editor’s note: This story has been published with permission from the author’s son.

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