So today at the pond, there were two tween girls (around 9 or 10 years old) who were building a moat in the sand. Katie stood in the middle of it until I came and pulled her out. I apologized and I heard Girl 1 say under her breath to Girl 2, "How rude!"
Me: "She didn't understand, she has autism."
Girl 2 (embarrassed): "It's okay, we know."
I brought Katie back over to the water (about 5 feet from them) and I heard Girl 1 mocking me and snickering. I ignored it. But THEN Girl 1 noticed Katie's ears. Ohhh boy, my heart sank. She grimaced, pointed, whispered wildly to Girl 2, who looked embarrassed again. I had a choice in that moment...
I slowly scooted back over, closer to the girls. "Hi Girls, if you have a question about my baby, it's okay, you can just ask me. She's my miracle girl and the happiest child I've ever known." I told them a bit about what makes Katie so special and about adoption and my dream to adopt since I was young like them. Girl 1 shrugged and backed away. Girl 2 softened, smiled, and listened intently. She finally said, "So, then she's like your dream come true!" I said yes and then overheard Girl 2 as she then said to Girl 1 about Katie "She's so adorable!" and I knew that my choice to calmly educate instead of recoiling and fuming was WORTH IT. Empathy is best modeled by parents though. Parents, PLEASE have an open conversation with your kids about children who are different. Empathy when displayed, is a beautiful thing. #empathywins