The moment a 12-year-old girl with autism found a connection with another child at a playground moved her father to tears.
The dad, from New York, US, took to Reddit to share his story, explaining that while this “won’t seem like a big deal to most people”, it was a major milestone for his daughter Arwen, because it was the first time he had seen her interact with a child she doesn’t see every day.
“She even ignores most of her classmates,” he explained. “This was a huge deal for her.”
The dad was with Arwen and his two sons in the playground after school – a time that usually involved the boys playing together while Arwen wandered around and played by herself.
Arwen was approached by a little girl who wanted to play with her and the father prepared himself for handling the child’s disappointment as he fully expected Arwen to rebuff her offer of friendship.
“Normally, Arwen ignores people she doesn’t know,” he explained.
“I told her that Arwen had autism and she might play, but she might not.
“I told the girl that she doesn’t talk, and that if she didn’t want to play it wasn’t the girls fault… ‘it’s not that she doesn’t like you, she just isn’t comfortable with new people’.”
But this time things were different. Arwen joined the girl, named Ava, playing on the climbing wall and the slides for twenty minutes.
“Arwen followed her to different playground equipment and when she went down first she looked back to make sure the girl was coming,” said the dad.
“When it was time to go, I asked Arwen if she wanted to say goodbye. What happened next had me, the teacher, and Arwen’s mom (when I texted her at work and told her) tearing up.
“Arwen hugged her. That never happens… she doesn’t even initiate hugs with people she knows.”
The dad issued a message of thanks to Ava’s parents, writing that they are “awesome”.
“Both the teacher and I thanked her for being nice to Arwen, and she looked at us like she had no idea what we were talking about,” he wrote.
“It was obvious that it never occurred to her to treat Arwen differently than any other kid. I think that was was got me the most.
“I never thought I’d get to see her make a friend.”
The post attracted comments from parents who have faced similar situations and the message of praise made its way to Ava’s parents.
“I personally know Ava and her parents,” wrote one commenter.
“Ava is a beautiful girl and has this aura that makes anyone who crosses paths with her comfortable.
“I am beyond proud that you had this break through and please know that her mum has seen this and is so proud of her daughter.
“Faith in humanity has been restored with this little girl.”