On the first day of her senior year, Lizzie was awakened by an alarm she set the night before. She showered, dressed and walked into the kitchen for breakfast. After fixing a quick meal, she filmed a few video clips for a Senior Year TikTok in her cheerleading uniform, packed her backpack, grabbed her keys and drove herself and a friend to their school thirty minutes away.
What is difficult to explain to those who see her now is how very affected by autism she was when she was diagnosed just days after her second birthday.
She had no functional language and made gibberish noises all day long.
She appeared completely unresponsive if people spoke to her.
She did not understand danger.
She did not follow commands.
She walked on her tip-toes, lined things up instead of playing and ate only five foods.
What people don’t see now is the thousands of hours of therapy and tutoring she endured over a span of fifteen years to gain each skill it took her to get to this place.
What people don’t see now is how many times she failed and then got back up over and over again until she got it right.
What people don’t see now is how much extra preparation she still has to do to just keep up with this fast-paced world.
Behind every masked or virtual student is a parent who has prayed and cried and sacrificed for that child behind closed doors. Behind every driver on the road and every smiling face at the grocery store is a story.
Our stories are often tethered by struggle and laced with pain. Every interaction we have with another person becomes a part of their story. We are all intertwined. Will we loosen the tether or add to the pain?