How My Son’s High School Musical Gave Him a Stage for Acceptance | Organization for Autism Research

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This post originally appeared on the author’s blog, The AWEnesty of Autism. It is re-posted here with permission.
​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 tonight 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.
The lady clinging to this teenager is his mother. A mother who felt her face would crack from smiling every time he walked onto that stage. A mother who remembers the toddler that struggled with change, the little boy who was so worried and anxious, the middle schooler who wanted to find his place, and the new freshman who felt so isolated and hopeless. A mother who now sees a teenager demonstrating confidence, pride and joy in a way the two of them once only dreamed about, by taking a risk, by stepping way outside his comfort zone and by believing in himself.

About the Author

Kate HeadshotKate is a writer, autism advocate and mother of three beautiful children. Her middle son, Ryan, has an autism spectrum disorder. Kate writes a blog entitled The AWEnesty of Autism, which has been featured on The Mighty, Yahoo Parenting, Autism Speaks,, The Autism Society of America, Scary Mommy and The Huffington Post. Kate hopes that through her writing, she is sharing a real, raw and AWEnest look at how autism impacts her family, and in doing so, she may help other parents recognize that they are not alone on this autism journey. Her stories and photos are shared with permission from her incredibly AWEsome son, Ryan, who also wants people to believe that even though he is “different”, he is not ever “less”. In addition to her blog, Kate is also a Justice System Consultant for PA’s ASERT Collaborative (Autism Services, Education, Resources and Training). With her prior experience working in PA’s Juvenile Justice System and her passion for advocating for children and adults living with autism, Kate loves the opportunity to train probation officers, police officers, attorneys, judges, correctional officers and others employed in the justice system in order to raise awareness of the impact an autism diagnosis has on those that become involved in our juvenile and criminal justice systems. Kate and her family have lived in Mechanicsburg, PA for the past 20 years. When Kate is not busy advocating, “different, not less,” she enjoys reading, binging on Netflix and spending time with her family and friends.

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