V A G I N A, this is my 10-year-old little sister’s favourite word.  She cannot say it enough.  Most people have a word like nou nou or lady bits or ‘down there’, but not my little sister Coco… NO, she loves to say… V A G I N A .  Of course, there is nothing wrong with the word, it is the anatomically correct way of referring to THAT body part – and for some reason, nobody ever wants to say it.  But then my little sister has autism, and she likes to say things… just the way they are.

When people hear ‘Autistic’ they might think that you look weird, but my little sister, Coco, is anything but weird.  She is stunning and no amount of Snapchat filters are ever going to bless me with what she has going on.  Coco has it ALL and when I say she has it all, she really has it ALL. 

Coco has autism, ADHD, language disorders, maths dyslexia, I mean just how many invisible disabilities can you stuff into one tiny little person?  But that’s the thing, they are invisible disabilities, you cannot see them.  When my mum tells people that Coco is learning disabled and autistic, some of them say “but, she doesn’t look autistic,” and I think, what’s that about?  There is an autistic look?

One of Coco’s unique traits is her obsession with certain things and when I say certain, I actually mean one thing… DOGS.  Coco has a collection of too many stuffed dogs and plastic toy dogs and this dog and that dog to count.  Our house is like a hotel for dogs.  Above all the dogs, is her REAL dog… Stella.  Coco would do absolutely anything for Stella and my guess is she would most definitely trade me, just so she can keep Stella.

All these traits make Coco different. The way she views the world is different.  The way she reacts with friends or to conversations is different.  The way Coco thinks and learns is different.  Coco’s differences have even meant that she does not always get invited to playdates or birthday parties and sometimes, other kids are mean to her, just because she is different. This hurts me.

The truth is we are too quick to label invisibly disabled people as annoying, or weird, or freaks.  This is wrong, we need to learn to accept people for who they are.  Coco accepts it.  Coco actually greets people with “Hi my name is Coco and I have learning herpes.”  I agree, that this is an interesting way to introduce yourself, but if it works for ‘Fat Amy’ in Pitch Perfect, then why shouldn’t it work for ‘learning herpes Coco’?  I say, ‘You go Glen Coco’ because we should be proud of our differences and we should learn to embrace and celebrate them.  It should not matter what label you have because… A label is only a problem if YOU have a problem with the label.