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This is what autism acceptance looks like for my son

This blog post was written by Kathy Hooven and her son, Ryan, who has autism. You can read more about Kathy and her family on her blog, "The AWEnesty of Autism."

So, Wednesday night Ryan was in his first HS Musical. Our High School, Cumberland Valley, puts on shows that could truly rival many off Broadway shows. Ryan has NEVER danced and he has NEVER practiced anything for 11 hours at a time (except killing Minecraft Creepers)!

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 Halloween's 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 too much for him to handle. The middle schooler who couldn't wear cargo shorts and khaki pants like all the 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. The freshman who believed he had no future because he is autistic.

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 last night 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.

Watching him cross the stage confidently wearing different costumes (costumes made of non-Hollister magic cotton), seeing him singing and dancing and watching him hit his mark show after show, made me worry that a heart could literally burst with pride, but, nothing prepared me for the onslaught of emotions that happened after the show.
Seeing the hugs, the high fives, the genuine admiration from his fellow cast members (some of whom have been acting for years) and the joy, oh my friends, the indescribable joy that was truly emanating from every fiber of his being, nearly wrecked me. I went from looking like The Joker with this huge, near maniacal smile permanently plastered across my face, to quietly crying as I clung to each and every exchange not wanting the moment to end.
A moment he has been waiting for, for a very long time.
They were seeing what I knew was there all along and equally as important, he was letting them see.
Did he go to the cast dinner? No. Did he go to the cast party? No. But a door has been opened. A door he has never really even so much as peaked into before. And one day, thanks to these gloriously, accepting, AWEsome kids, he may just walk through it.
Thank you to all the "Kiss Me Kate" cast, crew and Directors. A little awareness, a little acceptance, and a little kindness can mean a lot...a lot more than you can ever know.
And to you my son, thank you. Thank you for showing me how beautiful the world is when you look outside of yourself. You inspire me every day. I have never been more proud of you.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.