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What Autism Sounds Like: My Daughter’s Laugh

Courtesy of Cathy Webb

Jessica's laugh is a joyful bellow that begins in the pit of her belly and swells as it escapes her mouth. Her eyes widen and glee fills her cheeks. When she laughs it takes you by surprise, and it’s infectious.

Jessica has always been a happy child, even when Mommy was not.  I remember when I was told, "she is autistic.” I cried on our way home that day, but not my Jessica. She smiled and slapped my leg as if to tell me "snap out of it!” 

It is not the only time I cried. I cried when she ruined her godbrother’s birthday cake. I cried when she wouldn't go to sleep night after night. I cried when she couldn't tell me where she had a boo-boo. Heck, I am about to cry right now just reliving our journey.

I cry, and she laughs.

Jessica ate an entire box of crayons: I panicked, she laughed. When she bolted out into a busy parking lot and I almost died from fear (and exhaustion from chasing her), she laughed. When I heard “mommy” for the first time, she said it, grabbed my cheeks, and we laughed. 

Our days are not always easy. Sometimes I get the look that says, “Can’t you control her?” or “I feel sorry for you.”  Sometimes I cry, then, too, but never Jessica.

I may not fully know what autism looks like, but I know what it sounds like. It sounds like joy and hope all wrapped up in a beautiful, roaring laugh.  

By Cathy Webb, mom of Jessica, 7

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