Through our years of seeking ways for my daughter to be a part of our community, the most special place we have found is as the manager/helper for our girls' high school soccer team. As I spend the month of November reflecting on what I am thankful for, this moment is one of many... The girls varsity soccer team Ashlyn helps manage has a scrimmage and picnic each year. The freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams combine and then split into two teams to verse each other in a fun game with a trophy of bragging rights. Ashlyn was given the opportunity to play this year. A small gesture from the team, a never-to-be-forgotten day for her. My dad, her biggest cheerleader, and I, attended the game and tried to stay seated and act natural as Ashlyn headed onto the field. She did her best to keep up but mainly ran along as the girls headed from one end of the field to another. And then she got the ball. As soon as her foot was on it there were cheers from both team benches, her teammates helped her along and her opponents did too. This happened three more times during the game. A team full of teenage girls, gave mine a chance to shine. No one worried about if they would be winning or losing if she scored, they stepped back and let her go. I sat, well I didn’t sit, I scaled bleachers with my camera, screaming “Go Ashlyn!” like a crazy momma while tears pooled under my sunglasses and thought about how lucky I am to have this moment… a typical morning of soccer for every other parent in those bleachers but me. The weight of years and years of struggles giving way to heart-exploding pride. I know every single girl on her team worked very hard to get where they are and I hope their parents were proud of the character they showed on that field, but me? My cheeks still hurt from smiling and I don’t think I will ever forget my moment, our moment, watching my daughter triumph and being so eternally grateful for how autism has touched our life. How five seconds with a soccer ball mean more to the two of us than a driver’s license or a high-scoring SAT. The little things will forever be the big things. There are no small victories in our world. Autism has given me this. And a deep-rooted understanding of what a gift I sat there holding, first bleacher from the field, tear-stained sunglasses spilling over with pride. Because someone has taught me that anything is possible. What has someone with autism taught you?
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