This guest blog post is from Samantha Tabala, mom to a 6-year-old daughter with autism.
Normally, when you receive an invitation to your youngest brother's wedding, you’re filled with excitement, joy, and can't wait until the day comes. I experienced all these emotions but I was concerned about how my daughter Jaina would handle such a big event.
Jaina is 6 years old and was diagnosed with autism at 2. She is basically nonverbal, but does speak words when she needs to ask for something. Her speech has been progressing every year. Being that Jaina isn't fully potty trained was another one of my worries.
I wasn’t sure how Jaina would react to an all-day event at an unfamiliar place with an overnight stay. I knew I wouldn’t be able take care of her the whole day because I was in the wedding party. My husband would have his hands full with our 5-year-old son. Could he handle Jaina too? My brother and his fiancé were nice enough to invite my mother-in-law so she could help with Jaina.
Jaina is the only niece on my side of the family. She loves her uncle very much and it meant everything to my brother, Zack, for her to be there.
Jaina didn’t attend the ceremony. We figured she would be too loud, even if it were with her excitement noises. We didn't want to take the focus off of the couple during their moment.
During pictures, my brother took me into the reception tent to show me something they added to their special day. When I saw the puzzle pieces on the tables, I cried (see photo below).
The wedding took place in April, which is Autism Awareness Month. Seeing them spread awareness in honor of Jaina made my heart feel so warm. Jaina had a blast at the wedding! She danced almost the whole night! She called the bride "princess" and said "turn around" to see her twirl in her dress.
She didn’t have one meltdown or episode. She had chicken fingers and apple juice. It’s her favorite drink so we bring it with us wherever we go. Most importantly, our family and friends were there for us. They made her feel at home and helped her have a fun night.