Browse all articles By Kat Abianac / August 7, 2016 To my first baby. Beautiful Bella. Today I received an email containing your school report. It told me what I already knew. You display great empathy for others. You are a caring little girl, making improvements in your school learning and social capabilities. It also reminded me of a few things that I prefer not to focus on. That you are so far behind your peers in all subjects. You need a great deal of support to reach any of your achievements. It compared you to the ‘average’ child your age. But it did not mention you are autistic. Autism is part of who you are, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Your achievements happen every single day- when you make your way through a noisy, busy playground to get to your class. When you manage to recognise and acknowledge your classmates as they greet you, even the ones who get in your face and your personal space. When you sit down at the table, you try your hardest to hold onto that pencil and trace the letters of your name. Through all the noise and commotion, the conversations taking place around you. You concentrate and you focus. Instead of meeting your sensory needs to roll on the floor, run away or scream, you sit and do as many puzzles as you can. But you can’t bring yourself to sit on the mat with the other children because the noise and singing make your ears hurt so much. You feel all the emotions pouring out of every child as they wave goodbye to their parents – no matter how much they put a brave face on it, you can feel it all. And so you stay at the puzzle table. But instead of being recognised for your wonderful self-settling skills, the focus stays on your differences. That you refuse to sit on the mat. That you remain difficult to engage. So if you ever go back and read your prep reports- I want you to know this. It wasn’t fair that you were compared to all the other children in your class. I know that’s the way the education system works. It doesn’t upset me anymore, and I certainly don’t ever want it to upset you. I am so unbelievably proud of everything you do. You are so caring to everyone around you, even your very annoying little sister. You’re the first person to notice if one of your classmates is hurt or upset. You always know if someone is having a bad day, even if you can’t verbalise how that makes them, or you, feel. You are so loving and so kind. You make me laugh so much and you have an incredible memory. You have made real genuine friends this year, who like you just the way you are. And of course, there’s our extended family of friends and teachers all appreciate your beautiful qualities, and keep us focussed on all the positive things in our lives, no matter how hard it can seem sometimes. I’m not the only person who is so proud of you. Your daddy has such an incredible bond with you, and your little sister absolutely idolises you. Your aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents all know what an amazing little girl you are. The love and affection you all have for each other despite the distance is something quite incredible. You have made real genuine friends this year, who like you just the way you are. Our extended family of friends and teachers all appreciate your beautiful qualities, and keep us focussed on all the positive things in our lives- no matter how hard it can seem sometimes. So please know, my almost-7-year-old school girl. While you may be on a bit of a different course to your peers, you are going to achieve great things in your life. I love you, my Bella Boo. Karen Bennett- Originally published here as Apples And Oranges.