“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.” Fred Rogers
Seeley Flanagan, is five and three quarters, and though she doesn’t yet have a grasp on how she earned all three of those quarters she sure would like to have them in her purse.
She is unfettered, completely genuine and free from an understanding that her particular different could seem outlandish to some.
And isn’t that the goal? To feel accepted just as you are, to be able to express yourself freely and without inhibition. It sure is mine, and it’s been our primary goal during Seeleys first years since her autism diagnosis.
Seeley was just a touch over four when she was discovered to be autistic. We were told that she wasn’t in touch with her imagination.
We found out that this, in conjunction with her significant regression and many of her quirks put her right in the spectrum.
Upon taking a closer look, we found it was true, her rigid ideas of play were really her reciting situations she had seen and taken great care to remembered and later act out.
For many children, it isn’t unheard of to take a stick from the yard and make it a horse or a magic wand and run around using it as such. For my sweet girl, at the time, a stick was a stick and a wand was a wand.
With an attentive and more educated approach, we began encouraging Seeley to play and be flexible. You see the beginning of imagination lives in one single choice changing.
So long before she thought she was a mermaid, she was a girl trying desperately to be flexible enough to use red legos as anything but a train, and to try Elsa’s dress on Anna.
It’s tough to learn flexibility, but she has figured it out. When she puts her mind to it she can do magical sticks into wand stuff now too.
We have encouraged her to express herself in playful, imaginative activities in many mediums. Her favorites are painting, makeup and dress up.
When she paints and does makeup, her sensory input is balanced and what she creates is far less important to her than the squeeze, brush, glide, splatter, wash and stroke of it all. As she nears six years old, she is beginning to do artwork as expressions of an idea, which is really fun too.
Here is where her heart soars and her personality roars though — when she dresses up, she becomes the character.
I mean really becomes the character, as in only meowing for days, when the kitty phase is in full effect, or wearing a mermaid tail for 20 hours each day.
Thanks to Netflix and an old series called H2O: Mermaid Adventures, and Ariel from The Little Mermaid, Seeley is able to use their dialogue and adventures to immerse herself fully into their world.
At first, through scripting, she would try their words — then she said it so often, I think she began to believe.
At this point, I think she uses the mermaid persona to test the things out that she doesn’t think she is strong or brave enough for.
She amps herself up, “Mermaids do this, right mom?” “Yeah! MerGirls like me can do it. I was born a mermaid!”
I am grateful she has as much bravery, determination and strength as she does — and if she thinks she gets that because she has a tail, and the moon decided to give her powers (Thank you Mako Island), then we do mermaid.
She goes Mermaid, we go MerMom and MerDad. You would too, she is charming as imaginable.
Watching her discover who her authentic self is, and empowering her per suit is the best job I could ever imagine.
She is genuinely amazing, I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes when her years catch up to her ideas. I can’t wait to see where her goals and imagination bring her.
We are grateful you are here for the ride too!