Voices of Autism: ‘Ashlyn Has a Job’

Every day throughout April–Autism Awareness Month–we will be featuring a different reader-submitted story about living with autism. Today’s story was written by Jessica Watson, mother of Ashlyn, 15, and author of the blog Four Plus an Angel:

Ashlyn has a job. She is now manager of the girls varsity soccer team at her high school.

Ashlyn loves soccer and is the star of her Special Olympics team. When she first told me she wanted to be manager I was leery. She would be at school, after school hours, without support staff or an autism classroom or anyone who could do all of the things we do to make life manageable for her.

What if she has a melt down? What if it is too overwhelming? What if the coaches don’t give her enough guidance?

But I had to let her do it. Autism or not, she is a teenager and gaining independence is part of growing up, for both of us. So last week, after her first practice, she came to the car a bit disheveled, talking loudly, barely keeping it together before the car door shut.

Shoot, shoot, shoot, I knew we shouldn’t have done this. It was too much, too many people, too loud, too everything.

She said it went fine, but I wondered if somewhere in her mind she was unsure as to why she was the helper and not the player. When the next day of practice came, she wanted to go back, so I let her, not wanting to communicate the thoughts rolling around in my head and put something in her mind that might not already be there.

Day Two: She came out happy and a little overwhelmed, but no more so than after a typical school day. She said that she had a friend and the girls were nice.

Can we do this? Can she do this? She has a friend.

Day Three: Happy again and full of information about her jobs and her coaches and her friends.

We are doing it.

Which leads me to Day Four. On Day Four, she was not supposed to go. Day Four is her day off because this level of activity and noise and people is always too much, and limits are good. But she packed her bag for practice and told me to pick her up from school because she was going again today.

“I am important to them, Mom,” she said. “They need me.”

And I got it. Ashlyn has been “helped” her whole life. Now it is her turn.

Just like the millions of other children with autism, she has amazing talents but has had to spend so much time working to be like the rest of the world that those talents have often been overlooked and “helper” is not a role she often gets to play.

But now it is.

Three days a week she is needed by two coaches and a big group of teenage girls. Give her a week, and she will know their names, their numbers, every goal they have scored, and the game and bus schedule.

She is amazing and invaluable and needed, so very needed.

More than she will ever, ever know.

To read previous stories in this series, click here. For instructions on how to submit your story, click here.

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  1. by Lynn

    On April 28, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Congratulations to you and Ashlyn! You, for letting her go…I can only imagine how nerve-wracking that must have been. And of course Ashlyn for facing down any fears and anxieties that she may have had. That is quite a success story and I hope someday for my daughter to be needed as well!

  2. by Spectrummy Mummy

    On April 28, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Ashyln is doing great! I know the hardest effort must have come form you for letting her try, it is so hard, but what a gift in return! We’re still a while away from this, but I hope one day to have the strength that you did. Congratulations!

  3. by Phyllis

    On April 28, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Just finished this thru tears of hope and joy and wonderment.

    Thank you for opening up your heart and sharing. My son is somewhat-newly diagnosed with Asperger’s and I have met so many wonderful Moms who have already walked my road. Thanks for giving me hope, strength and perseverance to let go little by little and not be so over protective.

    And congratulations Ashlyn! Keep doing what you are doing! You’re an MVP in my book!

    Hugs to BOTH of you!

  4. by Nicole @MTDLBlog

    On April 28, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Jessica you are an inspiration and so is your daughter! You are an outstanding parent.

  5. by Leigh Sarfati

    On April 28, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Big smiles and a tear for you and Ashlyn. Jessica, you have done such an amazing job of raising that amazing daughter of yours. I miss her but love hearing about her adventures. Thank you!

  6. by By Word Of Mouth Musings

    On April 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Congrats to you both!
    And I so look forward to the day you make it down here, I have a feeling that my oldest and yours will enjoy eachothers company.

  7. by Alysia

    On April 28, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    teary here. this is beautiful. your line that all her life she’s been helped and now she’s a helper…really hit me. I hope that when my son’s in high school we’ll get to the wonderful place that you are with Ashyln. Thank you for sharing this with everyone.

  8. by Jenny

    On April 28, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    I love this story. I am so glad Ashlyn has a job she loves, a job that makes her feel important, a job that lets her use her skills, a job where she is needed. Thank you for sharing!

  9. by She's Famous | Four Plus an Angel

    On April 28, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    [...] piece of Ashlyn’s journey through autism is posted here at [...]

  10. by Janet

    On April 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    My daughter is on the LOHS varsity soccer team and she loves having Ashlyn there. Thank you for sharing your daughter with these teenage girls!

  11. by Sherri

    On April 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    So happy to see your story about Ashlyn over here! Very inspiring.

  12. by Ashley

    On April 28, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Such an inspiring story, and I’m so glad she has a great job where she is needed! Thank you for sharing such a great situation and your story.

  13. by Jessica

    On April 28, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Thanks to everyone for all of your comments, I’m so honored to be here today and to be able to share Ashlyn’s story with so many. I can’t thank Parents Magazine enough for including us in the Voices of Autism series.

  14. by Twinisms

    On April 28, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    This is a beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing. We all needed to be reminded that everyone has abilities and is needed.

  15. by Nichole

    On April 28, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Jessica–
    You have so very much to be proud of! You are such an amazing and supportive mom and Ashlyn is simply remarkable.

    I am so happy that she is having this experience and that you have had the chance to see her thrive.

    Beautiful…as always!

  16. by Tammy

    On April 28, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Ashlyn has been a wonderful addition to the soccer team. I am a teacher at LOHS and a parent of a varsity soccer player. Ashlyn is dedicated and takes her job seriously. My daughter loves having her there. Thanks for sharing her.

  17. by Cheryl D.

    On April 29, 2011 at 12:34 am

    How wonderful! That’s so exciting. Sometimes, it’s so scary for us to let go and let our kids take risks, but it’s SO worth it!

    Great article!

  18. by Tonya

    On April 29, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    I am so happy to see Ashlyn’s story here. It’s very encouraging and inspiring.

  19. by Monster Likes #16

    On April 29, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    [...] because she has a piece that she wrote about her daughter’s journey through autism shared on Parents.com! Congrats again, [...]

  20. by Korey Villalva

    On September 2, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    I don’t commonly comment but I gotta admit thanks for the post on this special one : D.

  21. by Mirjam

    On October 29, 2011 at 1:42 am

    I love reading about you’re daughter, she sounds like a wonderful person. And I love the way you write about her, so much love is read between the line.

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