On June 22, 2102 my husband and I were handed a stack of papers containing our daughters official diagnosis. We were sitting next to each other holding hands waiting to see what they had learned about our then 3 year old little girl. The very first thing that I saw on the papers was a headline of sorts that read “Mental Retardation”. A smile came across my face, not because I was happy but because I didn’t know what else to do. My hand was shaking so hard that it shook my husbands arm. I do not like the word retarded, retard or any other version that someone clever can come up with. I asked the lady sitting across from us why the papers said mental retardation. I was confused. We knew in our guts that she was autistic and possibly had some other issues but the words mental retardation seemed wrong. They seemed extreme. They seemed harsh. They seemed unkind. The lady kindly explained to me that any mental disorder is classified in the mental retardation category. I accepted it, read the 10 page diagnosis, said my goodbyes and bolted out of there. In a nutshell my daughter is asbergers (autism spectrum) and has auditory processing disorder. She can not filter the sounds around her. Imagine sitting in a restaurant and hearing every conversation in the room at the same volume and not being able to tune out other peoples conversations so that you can focus on the one you are having. The noise physically hurts her. Neither one of those “disorders” defines who she is. Yesterday my husband picked the triplets up from school. When Justin walked out she had huge earphones on. Needless to say, she stuck out like a sore thumb. My husbands heart broke. The teacher told him that Justin was hiding under the desk and crying because the noise hurt her ears ,so she put the earphones on her. The second the earphones went on Just was a totally different little girl. The teacher told us that yesterday, with the earphones on, was the first time that Justin had talked to the other kids in her class. I was sad for her and proud of her at the same time. I called my sister so that she could join my pity party with me. I explained to her that we took Justin to the store to pick out headphones and she chose the hunters bright orange bulky earphones that stuck out more than any other. She loves them. Thankfully my sister declined my invite to the pity party and reminded me that Justin doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. She probably knows that she is the normal one and we are all crazy. My sister then told me that we should all live like that. If something is bothering us then pull out the bright orange earphones and fix it. It’s very weird when my sister is right so I had to make sure to document it. Love you Tia. My daughter is different. She wears the same clothes everyday. She licks her hands and slicks down her ponytail all day long. She prefers not to make eye contact. She won’t eat brown food. When she has a bad “autism spell” we have to wrap her up in her blanket and rock her. She touches the floor in front of the church before we walk in. She is different. This little girl who was branded mentally retarded excels in academics. She has a photographic memory and I dare you to challenge it. She doesn’t know how to talk back and if you give her a timeout she usually thanks you. She politely asks permission to do anything, including going to the restroom in her own home. She knows every bible verse that she has ever been taught and keeps them hidden in her heart but if you ask her for one you will hear them all. She uses “thank you”, “please” and “God bless you” more than anyone I have ever known. She can read anything and I bet that she is laughing at the headline on her diagnosis report. She’s God’s girl and she knows it. She is more confident in it than any adult. You can label her, laugh at her, point at her, talk down to her and speak slowly to her so that she will understand (that always makes me laugh). Not one of those things effect what she has hidden in her heart and they never will. She was specifically written about in the bible, check it out. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12. We should take a cue from this five year old. We should have God’s word and love hidden so deep in our hearts that nothing can touch our spirits. We should be comfortable with the things that make us happy and safe. We should be proud of the things that make us different and unique instead of trying to squeeze ourselves in to a mold that doesn’t fit. Are you being yourself? Are you sticking by what you believe no matter who is watching? Are you treating people with kindness, respect and love even though they do not expect it or demand it from you? If you are struggling with it take a look at the smile on my daughters face. She is going to walk in to a school that she has only been in for 5 days wearing a bright orange pair of bulky headphones. She knows that she will be the only one wearing them and that she will be different from the other kids and all she can do is smile because they make her so happy and so comfortable. We should put on our bright orange hunters earphones and head out in to the world today with a smile as big as Justin’s. . Let’s pray “Loving Father thank you for taking the time to make each one of us to be unique and special. Thank you for personally knitting us in our mothers wombs . Show us how to always stand tall for what we believe in and always walk with our heads held high. Hide Your word so deep in our hearts that nothing can separate us from it. In Jesus name, amen”. My little “mentally retarded” daughter is peacefully asleep in her princess bed, snuggled next to her sisters, happily wrapped tightly in her blanket with a pair of bright orange bulk earphones on.