For many people with autism, routines are often a necessity. Change and unpredictability are things they often struggle to handle, so when that routine is messed up, it becomes a problem of epic proportions.
That’s why two kids really stood out to Stephanie Skaggs, an autism mom, at a Kentucky water park.
Stephanie’s daughter, Baylee is a mostly nonverbal five-year-old with autism. In July 2016, Skaggs took Baylee to the Kentucky Kingdom water park, Hurricane Bay. The mother-daughter duo had a routine in place: “Wait in line.. then when we were 4 from the front, sit on the step, then down into the water then scoot up, then wait at the top of the slide for the ok to go from the lifeguard.” As the routine became solidified in Baylee’s mind, her patience increased.
Then her routine got shattered when a child cut in front of her in line. Skaggs braced herself for Baylee’s impending meltdown…
…But it never came. It was all thanks to a little girl who quickly jumped in and said, “She can go ahead of me.”
Touched, Skaggs commended the girl for her kindness. And then they went on with their day, until yet another child cut in front of Baylee. Once again, a child—a boy this time—allowed her to go ahead of him. Skaggs lauded his kindness, too, and then she got to thinking…how crazy was it that these two kids—one right after the other—had been so sweet toward Baylee and intuitive about her special needs? Obviously, she didn’t look any different, and her behavior didn’t make it immediately obvious that she had a different ability.
Whatever the case, she later realized these two kids were brother and sister. So she asked the little boy to show her where his mother was; Skaggs wanted to tell their mom what a great job she was doing with raising her kids.
Their mom responded, “I don’t know about that.”
“Well, mom, you are,” Skaggs later wrote in a Facebook post. She’d been so touched by the children’s kindness that she wrote an open letter to their mom, thanking her and sharing just why the day’s events were so significant.
“Every time [Baylee] has a big improvement or meets a goal she has worked for, my joy is immediately dimmed by the concern I have for the kinds of struggles she faces in a world that is not always kind. She is so funny and smart, and brings a smile to the face of most people who she comes into contact with, but….I know there are people out there who will refuse to see those things simply because she is different….
“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!”
Skaggs’ touching post went viral…and after only a few hours, it reached the kids’ mother, Laura Jones, herself. Now the two women are Facebook friends, and they have even gotten together a second time with their kids.
I don’t know about you, but I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.
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.