My daughter is beautiful: she has long, flowing, blonde hair, blue eyes, elegant features, and stands about 5’ 10” tall. These are not simply the proud rantings of an adoring father: she’s often asked by others if she’s a model. She might reply, “Model? Who’s he?” or simply yell, “Model!” delighted by the sound of the word but unable to answer the question since she’s autistic and has difficulty with everyday interactions and expressing herself coherently.
There have been numerous occasions when young men, clearly attracted to her, have approached her to talk, and blankly turned away upon discovering her cognitive deficits. My heart has sunk on more than one occasion as I’ve grappled with the urge to explain her to them, to let them know how warm and real she is, and how they’re missing out on a wonderful opportunity to know a great person. Instead, I move to comfort her, as I recognize that her not looking like a teen with special needs can sometimes make her life a notch more difficult than it would be otherwise.
There are other awkward moments when the world doesn’t seem to know what to make of Kendall. For instance, since she has a penchant for darting off in busy parking lots, we acquired a handicap tag to make it easier to reduce the distance to building entrances. Once, as we were backing out from a handicap space, an irate woman confronted me, screaming, “Why are you using this spot?!”
I replied, gesturing toward my daughter, “Ask her.” Kendall…