Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The People She Has Touched

I am absolutely blown away by the affect that Katie has on people.  I obviously love her, by virtue of being her mother.  I would love her no matter what, and so would her family.  The Katie Fan Club that she has created, however, has no obligation to her, but is crazy about her anyway.  Katie had me wrapped around her finger from the time she was a baby.  She was always very happy, and very loving, even if she did not talk for 5 years.  A large number of Autistic individuals have difficulties socially, but that has never been the case with Katie.  Socialization has always been one of her greatest strengths. 

No matter where we go in the community, there is always someone who is calling out to her.  "Hey Katie, how are you?", "What's up, Katie!", everywhere we go.  Church, the grocery store, the mall, the park, at her sisters games and practices, she will always run into a friend.  Sometimes it is kids her own age, sometimes it is former teachers or paraprofessionals, bus drivers, classmates, kids from her bus.  What is amazing to me is that they are all so very friendly and so excited to see Katie.  They don't have to say hi, there is no one around telling them to be nice to her. 

I was telling someone about the kind of treatment that Katie receives from people, wondering why they were always so nice, and I learned a life lesson.  I was told that people love Katie so much because she loves everyone just the way they are.  No one has to pretend for her, no one has to worry about what they are wearing, or what their hair looks like, or what social group that they are in.  They don't have to be embarrassed about not fitting in, or about something that made others laugh at them.  They don't have to try to impress her, or worry about making her mad.  Katie always sees the best in people, and gives them such a positive reception.  Who wouldn't want to be around someone that loves you no matter what?  That thinks you are nice and pretty and smart and funny.

I hear from Katie's former teachers on a regular basis.  They all want to know how she is doing, what kind of progress she has made, and what she is involved in.  I started sending out regular emails to them, and I told them that they all had played a special role in her life.  I told them that "it takes a village to raise Katie, and you are all the village people".  I am hoping that one day they will all be able to celebrate with her at her high school graduation party. 

There are other people who are crazy about Katie as well.  There is a family from my older daughters sport team from a few years ago that still email and ask about her.  Her great aunts call and email her on a regular basis.  Her uncles and aunts fight over who she calls her favorite.  Her great grandmother brags about her at the grocery store.  Her friends moms keep her favorite snacks in stock at their house.  A former bus driver just dropped off a care package at our house, full of snacks and toys for her. 

All of these people love my other children as well, but it is just different with Katie.  I don't know if it is because they know she needs the attention, but I do know that not a single one does it because they feel sorry for her, or take pity on her.  She is just fun to be around.  And she makes you feel good about yourself.  How can you NOT love it when you talk to her, and she is inviting you on a Disney vacation within 5 minutes of the conversation?  When she is planning a party in your honor, planning your favorite foods and going to sing your favorite songs?  Who does not love emails that simply say "I miss you", or "I love you", or "Call me so we can play".  If someone so genuine hero-worships you, how can you NOT hero-worship them right back? 

Katie has had so many people following her progress since her Autisim diagnosis over 10 years ago.  They have watched her go off to doctors appointments, attend speech therapy sessions, board a school bus at 3 years of age, struggle to learn to talk when everyone her age was already reading, go to school 5 cities away, go through sensory integration therapy, struggle with general education teachers that didn't want her there, succeed in math and struggle in writing, embrace technology that opened a whole new world for her, change school districts and enter the general education classroom, create friendships with "regular kids", and start middle school with her peers.  I think that they all feel invested in her success, like they played a role in her achievements.  That her triumphs are their triumphs as well.  And they are absolutely right.  Katie belongs to everyone, and just like a mother watching her own child, they feel the same pride in watching her grasp for the stars, and reach them.  When Katie sets out in her "Adventures in Autism", she has so many people following behing her, cheering her on.

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