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How My BFF's Daughter 'Gets' My Autistic Son

Editor's Note

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

This week, we spent a few days at the beach and we had the good fortune to take my best friends’ daughter with us. She is an exceptional treasure for a multitude of reasons, but one attribute that stands out to me is how she treats my son, Ryan. She treats him like any other friend she loves. For a 10-year-old, she is wise beyond her years.

So many kids Ryan’s age — and adults for that matter — don’t make much of an effort with Ryan. Although it breaks my heart, I get it. Ryan isolates himself, he can appear “grumpy” and so sometimes that makes it hard to approach him. Not with this girl. She asks him about his meals, his games, what he likes and doesn’t like about the beach. After Ryan took a spin on the go carts, this sweet girl was the first to run up to him with a high five and praise for how great he was at race car driving!

What melted my heart, what did me in, was her response to his scripts. If she didn’t know where the script came from, she asked. If she thought the script was funny, she laughed. If she thought he was amazing at his impersonations, she told him. Just like she would with any other friend.

Do I believe much of this girl’s acceptance and love for Ryan is innate? Of course I do. Do I believe that from the time she learned about Ryan’s autism her parents instilled in her the understanding that Ryan wants to be treated like everyone else? Of course I do. Do I believe that we can learn more about friendship, kindness, acceptance and love from children than we can from any other adult on the planet? Damn straight I do.

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