“Does being autism make me bad?”
It was a vulnerable question that came from 7-year-old Cadence’s heart and flowed from the tip of her pencil. She’d heard news stories about people on the spectrum being “locked up” for hurting people. She’d heard parents talking about autism. And as her deeply profound mind processed it all, she finally asked that heartbreaking question in the form of a note.
The note started in Cadence’s favorite “safe place”: underneath her teacher’s desk. News stories aren’t clear about the specifics of “when” and “where,” but at some point, the note reached the eyes of Cadence’s mother, Angela.
“What makes you wonder if being autism makes you bad?” Angela wrote back.
Cadence launched back her reasoning: she’d heard about parental difficulties. She heard people on the spectrum sometimes hurt others. “And kids who are autism have to be put in a [jail] to keep others safe or tied up.”
With her motherly wisdom and compassion, Angela replied, “Do you think I believe these things are true, or that I would say them?”
Cadence strongly responded with “NO!”
“What do you believe?” Angela asked.
Cadence’s next words brought her mother to tears. She wrote about how she didn’t want to hurt people and how she would be scared in a jail cell. “I was born autism but that doesn’t mean I was born bad,” the little one concluded.
Angela finished the note with a statement that was equally poignant: “I have happy tears that you know what is true; and I have sad tears because there are lots of people who don’t know what is true.”
She later posted the note on Facebook, where it went viral.
As Angela suggested, we need more people like Cadence—more people who know the truth about Autism Spectrum Disorder. It’s often viewed in such a negative light and is so stigmatized and misunderstood. But as Cadence said, autism does not make a person bad. It may make someone a little different, but “different” is not a negative word. It may make some with the disorder a little violent, but that doesn’t make them bad. Parenting may be a little frustrating, but autism parents love their children to death and wouldn’t trade them for the world. The truth is, kids on the spectrum are a gift. As Angela stated, “Every child is innately special and every child has their own ‘I am me’ story.”
If the world learned that, maybe they’d begin to see the truth as Cadence sees it.
A. Stout received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing through Grand Valley State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2015. In addition to being a passionate autism advocate, she is a member of various fandoms, a study abroad alumna, and an animal lover. She dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world someday.