Having to stand in line before getting the chance to go on a water slide can be difficult for kids, but patiently waiting your turn can be even harder if you have autism.
Stephanie Skaggs understood what that struggle would be like for her 5-year-old daughter, Baylee, and actively worked with the child on practicing waiting her turn. However, after witnessing what happened when her daughter was cut in line multiple times, Stephanie was left speechless — and wrote a powerful message to the other mother.
Stephanie explained that while kids jumping in line isn’t usually a huge deal, it is for her daughter. Not because she has to wait longer but because of how upsetting it is for Baylee when the steps of the routine that she just learned are now out of whack. “[Coping with unexpected change] is one of the more difficult skills to practice and especially in public when people, especially other children, do not understand why she is reacting the way she does,” Stephanie wrote on Facebook. “I dread it. Not what she will do but what other people will.”
However, as Stephanie was bracing herself for Baylee’s reaction to this drastic change in the process she was working so hard to understand, another little girl looked up at Stephanie and said, “She can go ahead of me.” Stephanie was left baffled by this child’s kind gesture because Baylee hadn’t even had a chance to react or get upset before this little girl offered Baylee her spot. “I felt like maybe she could tell by the way I had been talking to her that she had special needs,” Stephanie continued. “It was so sweet and I told her what a sweet girl she was. And we moved on.”
After a day spent in the busy water park, Baylee and Stephanie found themselves in the same position — another child cut in front of Baylee and jeopardized her routine. This time, a young boy was in front and immediately offered Baylee his place before she had a chance to shed a single tear. “Again, I praised his good behavior and kindness and we went ahead, and I was struck that two different children would be so intuitive and kind,” Stephanie reflected. “Like most autistic children, Baylee does not LOOK any different than any other child. And it’s not really immediately obvious by her behavior either. It takes some observation and usually children their age don’t realize she has autism.”
Later, Stephanie spotted both of the children together and it all made sense — they were siblings and their kind actions weren’t a coincidence; the same mother raised them. “When I came to you and told you about my experience with your kids and told you that they were super kids and you are doing a great job, you said ‘I don’t know about that.'” Stephanie wrote to their mother. “Well, mom, you are. A small gesture like theirs may not seem like much. But I promise it was.”
As a parent of a child with autism, Stephanie says that the only thing she knows to expect is the worry that comes when she thinks about her daughter’s future. But this mom reassured her that some children are being raised to not immediately reject someone who is different. And even if this mom doesn’t realize what an amazing job she is doing and what a big deal instilling those qualities in her children is, Stephanie is determined to show her that it does matter.
“Sure your children’s kindness helped in that moment to avoid a meltdown, and that is kind of a big deal for kids on the spectrum, but I will tell you what is an even bigger deal though, and that is that it gave me some HOPE!” she wrote. “When I looked at those sweet little faces, filled with pride as I praised them, it made me happy to know that more moms are raising their children the way you are!”