February 1, 2023

When she was born her mother said to me, “What do we do now – sit back and watch her grow?” I told our youngest that there was a little more to it than that. She found that out when she and Joe added four more.

Sarah is now 19 and visiting us with her sister from Alaska. She’s brilliant – she understands math, science and space in an orbit far beyond most. She will engage vividly with almost any topic and back it up with her research and thoughts.

Her look is gothic. Her artistic side uses eyeliner to paint her face with cat eyes – a creature she loves. She cuts her own hair and dyes it magenta. She packed six cuddly toys in her luggage. Sarah doesn’t go anywhere without it. For now, it’s Catalyst – a pink squishmallow that’s part cat, part unicorn.

Nineteen, you ask – and dependent on cuddly toys? Yes…they are like friends. She also has other “neurodivergent” tendencies. She can’t run her hands over fabric – even pulling up jeans can be difficult. They are disturbed by clapping and knocking noises. Breakdowns can occur when her brain can’t process what to do or how to react when her orderly rhythm is disrupted.

Sarah is in the “spectrum”. She has autistic behaviors that set her apart from the “norm”. Driving – if she can do it – becomes a challenge because there are too many things to focus on at the same time. The lack of social cues — like facial expressions and taking everything spoken literally — has limited their friendships.

She’s both refreshingly and painfully honest—right and wrong don’t wobble. She doesn’t believe in small talk. Let them present the expansive panorama. Let them imagine and create. Thousands are watching her captivating videos on social media. Her mind is so busy thinking that she forgets to eat. And make this menu vegetarian. There’s nothing wrong with eating meat, but that’s how the industry treats its animals. They are sentient beings.

She amazes with her insight. “We should forget society’s notion of growing up – and instead just become wise.” “We should embrace the uniqueness in everyone – everyone fits together in that each one stands out.” of a society – because it keeps other people from showing their ‘inner universe’ and keeps society from seeing things from a new perspective.” “When we teach children sexual content at a very young age, we take away from them the right to experience play, fun and wonder in their childhood.”

Sarah is herself – a whole person. As she says, “I’m not against behavioral interventions, but if an autistic person’s behavior isn’t wrong and isn’t preventing them from doing the good, then there’s no point in trying to stop it. The goal should not be to make everyone like neurotypicals – but to learn from other perspectives in order to improve yourself.”

Back to that newborn moment 19 years ago. Her mother and I could never have dreamed of this fabulous, wonderful girl – wisdom cloaked in Gothic.

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