Today is Autistic Pride day. Last year I talked about different events happening and what you could do, today I want to talk about one; Hallee Sorenson.
In July last year, Hallee invited her classmates and other friends in the are to celebrate a big birthday – her 18th.
Not a single person showed up.
I’ve said before, for Chris’ 16th and 17th birthdays that he wasn’t going to get facebook posts wishing him happy birthday, he wouldn’t get texts, go out and celebrate with his friends, ask for money to spend, he wouldn’t ask for expensive presents, or make a big show of opening presents. He is happy with his day-to-day life. But for his 18th I wanted to make it big, so that he would know that it was an important day. I’ve been so preoccupied with making #Project324 work, that I forgot what made me want this so bad.
It was summer last year, end of August and I was reading an article by an autism mum. She was talking about how her little boy was never invited to birthday parties. How he didn’t get play dates, and people didn’t even try. He was verbal and an athlete. Chris is neither verbal nor an athlete. So, I started thinking about Chris and how he has never been invited to a friend’s birthday party. Then I started thinking about who he would invite, and who would show up. Of course, I thought of all our lovely family and then…… no one. I got a chill down my spine, I thought I could never let that happen. No matter how much we accept that Chris’ life, wants and needs are different, his milestones are unique we are still shackled by our society’s norms; like birthdays.
“Hallee is funny, sweet, caring, smart, an athlete, a jigsaw puzzle champion, a wonderful student, and a best friend to all” but Hallee’s family won’t let autism be part of the way she is described to the world. Hallee is so much more than her diagnosis. Her cousin made it her mission to give Hallee a birthday to remember this year and asked people from around the world to send birthday messages to her home in Maine – Hallee received more than 10,000 cards, notes and gifts.
Why are we less willing to help people that we go to school with than people half way around the world? Why did #Project324 get so many responses and yet none of Hallee Sorenson‘s classmates, who she sees every day, had the decency to show up to her 18th birthday?
I am sorry that our society failed you last year Hallee. I know that your story, your strength and beauty will make sure that children around the world will get treated with more love and understanding. Your family’s courage is a beacon for autism families all over the world worrying about their kids’ birthdays. I hope you are showered with gifts and cards and love on your 19th birthday and forever. I hope that this is a wake up call to your school and your community and that your message stays with them for years to come. Hallee’s auntie said: “This is all reaffirming that most people are kind and loving and that we all have the capacity for caring about others, even if they’re many miles away.” Maybe next year “most people” will be “all people“.
Hallee is Autistic Pride Day. Her smile, her milestones, her perseverance and her family’s strength and support are at the heart of what we are proud today.
Happy Birthday Hallee, you deserve a love so expansive it weaves constellations, so that you never forget who you are.
Send Hallee a birthday wish:
34 Wellesley Way
Bangor, ME 04401