Find happiness in the small things

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By Leslie Moore

"Daddy! Daddy! Look what I got," the little girl shouted with glee.

Every child was a winner at The Kid SpOt Center's second annual autism awareness event at Kid Wise Amusement on April 16. When their name was drawn for a door prize, the children rushed to the prize table to choose among several gift baskets overflowing with an assortment of educational toys, craft kits and candy.

My eyes sparkled with tears as I watched one little girl pull a small bag of candy out of one of the baskets. She didn't know or care that she got to take the whole basket, she was just delighted to win something. She is a perfect example of finding happiness in the small things.

Isn't it wonderful to be reminded of a valuable lesson when we least expect it?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in 68 American children have autism.

Once diagnosed, children with autism receive various types of therapy to aid in their cognitive and social development.

Although autism affects so many children and their families, much about the disorder remains a mystery. We wonder what causes it and how to treat it, and often worry about the limits for the children who have it.

Yet families, therapists and doctors who have dedicated their lives to helping children affected by autism know that every child is unique. And no matter where they are on the autism spectrum, it does no good to limit our expectations for individuals with autism, because they defy them all the time.

Last week's event was intended to give those children and their families affected by autism an opportunity to meet others who are sharing many of their experiences. But it also presented a chance for other children in the community to interact with children affected by autism. Getting to jump together in the bouncy houses and race each other down the slide showed them that children with autism aren't so different after all.

While we should most definitely continue our efforts to help individuals with autism and other special needs learn, I think it is also important to recognize what they can teach us.

I'll use me as an example. When I consider my childhood self, I probably would have looked for the prettiest basket with lots of frilly toys inside.

But happiness in life isn't determined by how many prizes we win or how big they are, it's by our ability to appreciate the little miracles that happen every day.

And through the smile of an innocent child, I won't soon forget the one I witnessed last week.