Cadence, the little girl whose insights and short stories about Autism often go viral on social and mainstream media sights, is very much a ‘regular’ kid who just happens to also be a little different”, says Mum, Angela. Here she shares a little about the Cadence ‘behind the words’.
“Cadence is just Cadence. She is, intellectually, aware that she is considered to have a particularly complex ‘profile’, but rightly considers this fact unimportant to her everyday life. She in no way perceives or believes her differences make her ‘less’ in any way – rather, being different has always seemed to motivate and inspire her to try harder, to find ways to understand and relate to the world around her, to be brave and to seek out ways to cope with the many things that cause her difficulty.
Having just turned eight years old, Cadence is very much like other typical children her age – she is a happy, bright, very active and playful child who delights in mucking around with her friends, scootering, gymnastics, jumping and rolling, and snuggling with her beloved moggy’s and muttley dog. She believes in fairies and the Easter Bunny; but, though she writes him each year, she has never entirely been 100% convinced that Santa Claus exists! On face value, Cadence is very much your ‘typical’ kid next door.
But, equally, she’s also a little different. She rarely greets her friends, rarely indicates hello or goodbye in ‘typical’ ways, and can become easily confused during imaginative play, social play and playground games. She is blessed with a gorgeous, inquiring and gentle personality and, though her young peers don’t necessarily always understand her, she is very much accepted by them and has many friends.
Not exactly a typical student
As a Grade 2 student in mainstream school, Cadence is well regarded by both staff and peers as having exceptional manners and of being a ‘role model’ for other children through her behavior. In many respects, she seems your ‘typical’ outstanding student. Except, again, in the school context it’s equally apparent that she’s also a little different.
She is the child who wears a lanyard with her ‘talking words’ attached – to enable her to communicate to others what she wants or needs. She is not a kiddo who enjoys being the center of attention, which likely plays a key role in her long held very strong discomfort of being photographed. She finds it difficult to participate in ‘public’ school activities like parades, sports days and excursions, without higher level support, but continues to work hard in overcoming her challenges in these areas.
No “I love you”
At home, Cadence is again your seemingly typical kid on many levels. She washes dishes and other chores, feeds the animals, manages to constantly make a mess, is loud and playful. But, she’s also a little different. There are no nightly kisses or “I love you’s” and if she gets confused or distressed, or a stranger comes to the door, it wouldn’t be unusual for me to find her in her in one of her ‘safe’ places – under the bed, in a cupboard or hiding in her swing! She adorably displays her genuine affection for others, through non-verbal means – little ‘I love you’ notes left around the house, and through her actions and compassion for others.
I think, with Cadence, both her own personality and her environment have been equally important in her development of self-belief, resilience and sense of place in the world – being consistently understanding, supportive and accommodating of her challenges, but equally focusing on and encouraging her to use her strengths – finding that balance of accommodating disability and genuine needs but not allowing or enabling either her (or my own) fears or limitations to become obstacles and, importantly, reinforcing, everyday, in actions and in words, both self-acceptance and self responsibility (within her ability).
We have only three rules in our home: to be respectful in everything we do, to be a learner and to be safe in everything we do.
Cadence is simply Cadence
At the end of the day, Cadence does not see herself as any less, or more, than anyone else. And the reality is, she isn’t. She’s simply a very kind, beautiful-natured child who like all children, has both strengths; and, challenges and obstacles to learn to deal with. A little Miss who will hopefully continue to be surrounded by a community – family, friends, teachers, neighbours, medical and allied health professionals – that will support and encourage her to do exactly that; including most importantly, simply accepting for who she is. I think perhaps, genuine and unconditional acceptance is the greatest gift any person can give a child.
In the meantime, Cadence will continue, no doubt, to communicate insight into her beautiful mind, through her writing, drawings, paintings and actions.