Kids with autism face unique challenges. These 10 glorious pics capture the victories.

Sometimes our smallest victories aren't that small at all.

"This Is Autism," a photo series produced by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, illustrates that point beautifully. The photos capture the moment that kids with autism reached their biggest achievements after receiving therapy at the hospital's Marcus Autism Center.

"For many families that have a child with autism, even the simplest milestones are something to celebrate," the hospital notes.


1. Quinn had a very tough time getting dropped off at day care before. Now she's ready to play and learn.

‌Photo courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. ‌

“Before going to therapy, I had a difficult time dropping Quinn off at daycare. Some days, I would be late for work and stay with her because she was so upset. Now, she initiates the hug and kiss when I drop her off.” — Quintin Harris (Quinn's dad)

2. Gavi didn't acknowledge his younger brother before. Now they're best buds.

‌Photo courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. ‌

“Gavi has come a long way. We couldn’t function at home prior to treatment. He didn’t acknowledge his younger brother, and they never played together. Now, they are best buddies and have a really sweet relationship.” — Lauren Surden (Gavi's mom)

‌Photo courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. ‌

3. Navigating the grocery store was difficult for Ainsley last year. Now she can't get enough of the macaroni aisle.

‌Photo courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

“Last year, trips to the grocery store were hard for us. The lights, crowds, and noises would be too overwhelming for Ainsley. Since completion of the Feeding Disorders Program, she now loves shopping trips — particularly the macaroni aisle!” — Mary Mullikin (Ainsley's mom)

Photo courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

4. Isaac struggled to express himself before. Now he loves ordering food at restaurants and chatting with others.

Photo courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

“At this time last year, 7-year-old Isaac wouldn’t ask for things. Instead, he would take my hand and lead me to what he wanted. I never knew what he was thinking or feeling because he couldn’t express himself. Today, it’s like he’s never met a stranger. He interacts with everyone he meets and loves to order food from his favorite restaurants.” — Keely Wright (Isaac's mom)

Photo courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

5. Ethan used to have trouble communicating with his family. Now his vocabulary is growing every day.

Photo courtesy of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

“Ethan struggled with communication and understanding his family. After just seven months of therapy, he can now understand me. He is starting to ask for things he wants and his vocabulary and expressiveness grows day by day.” —Haley Lindau (Ethan's mom)

Photo courtesy of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

April is Autism Awareness Month — the perfect time to spread the facts on autism and celebrate all those living on the spectrum.

Estimates suggest about 1 in 68 children have autism. Autism affects everyone a bit differently, though it usually affects social and communication skills, making seemingly simple tasks much more challenging.

Kids with autism often have unique skills sets. However, it's still worth acknowledging when therapy and the support of loved ones can help them take those small steps forward in everyday life.

Because every victory is worth celebrating.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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