Sunday, June 14, 2009

Shannon's Speech to Erin

Lauren, Erin, Shannon. Photo by Jennifer Kirby

Nate's girlfriend Erin has a sister who has autism. Shannon is not the autism. The autism is just an aspect of her personality that makes her unique. She has come a long way from the little girl I met years ago when I drove the drove the bus. That little girl cried loudly all the way home because I could not turn the bus around so she could go back and get a book she forgot. This Shannon is more mature and outgoing and self-assured.

On the morning of graduation...oh here. I'll let her mom, Jennifer, tell you. This is an email she sent out last week:

"For those of you who didn't know, Shannon secretly prepared this speech and planned to deliver it at the Indian Land High School graduation ceremony. I discovered her plans on the morning of graduation when I asked why she was carrying around her Hello Kitty tote bag all morning (which contained her secret speech). She was highly disappointed when I gently told her that she wouldn't be able to deliver it at the ceremony because Mrs. Faris wouldn't have time to add her to the agenda at the last minute. Things worked out all right and Shannon gave us this highly entertaining speech at our cookout later that evening."

And so, without further ado, here is Shannon's speech. I'm leaving it pink because that's how she typed it. But I've darkened the color so you can read it a little better:

Erin Leigh Kirby, my older sister and role model, I have many things to say about you and anything else that is related to you. But first, I have this introduction. I won’t be saying stuff like how much you mean to me or what a wonderful person you are because I find those such speeches so formal that they are tacky. Instead, I shall use a speech that is the most suitable for my tastes and therefore have decided to make one my own way. I don’t care if this gets criticized because it is my speech and I can do whatever I want with it. The only thing that will not change about this is that it is for you and you only. So to all those who may not find this speech appropriate for the occasion, I suggest you either shut up or pack your bags and get out of here because, again, it’s my speech and I can do whatever I want with it. Back to the subject, we all know you’re great and have made a big impact in our lives, Erin, but I have these things to say. You are, in fact, the greatest nitwit that I have ever known. Note that this is the first time that you have been called by a supposingly insulting name in public and it may be your last so enjoy that while you can. Also, I wish you and your current boyfriend good luck in your future relationship. Speaking of which, I know what sort of future you want but I remember one thing that, if I remember correctly, is on a pillow that Dad owns. “You never see a motorcycle parked outside a psychologist’s office.” In other words, should your dream of becoming a psychologist come true, you may as well be the first one to have their own motorcycle and hopefully still have some sanity left to function normally. Forgive me if I just happen to embarrass you in front of a lot of people especially those that you may not know very well, but it is part of my job as your big little sister. It is my speech, after all and I do not wish to change anything. Now, without any further ado, I shall start with the past, continue until I get to the present, and finally present the grand finale of the speech. No, I won’t give any of it away because you will have to sit there and listen just like everybody else. That means all the impatient little rugrats out there. I know you’d rather be playing your silly games than listen to what I had to say.
Let’s start with the time when we were little kids. As a little sister, I wanted to be just like you: social, easy to get along with, and have a lot of friends. Of course, the goal was extremely difficult for me because of my condition, which, for those of you who did not know already, is autism. But I never gave up. I overcame the difficulties even though it took a long time to become who I am today. By a long time, I mean many, many years of my life. I was able to fit in as a student of the schools we went to together from an elementary school in Jefferson County, Kentucky, to a middle school in Madison County, Alabama, and from there to this high school in Indian Land just because of that goal. However, I don’t want to spoil anything to our listeners now because I have yet to tell them about all the details. Back when I was the youngest of the family, I was learning how to communicate. You helped me use the power of communication by playing with me. Our favorite game is a pretending game inspired by one of our favorite movies, The Lion King. You remember how much fun that was and so do I. When our little sister Lauren was born, we were pleased to have another kid to play with. Soon, I started disliking her because I find her annoying and difficult to live with. Everything was fine with life in Kentucky because we were able to go to places that are fun such as the Louisville Zoo and Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. Then we moved to Alabama. At first, everything was exciting to us, but during the first few weeks of school I met someone who eventually became an enemy. You know who I am talking about, but I refuse to mention her name. I don’t want to upset anybody at an event that was supposed to be a happy one. I was barely able fit in because of my condition in which I knew nothing about until my curiosity found it. Another reason why I was barely able to fit in the school environment is because of the old hag I mentioned earlier. I would tell everyone the whole story, but I still don’t want to turn a happy event into a sad one so I decided not to say anymore about the horrors I’ve been though because that would ruin your day, would it? You probably remember that creek in the forest we sometimes went to, the beautiful tree that used to be next to our Alabama house, the ditch behind that same house, the giant pool area we used to go to every summer that had the concession stand, visiting your friend’s houses, and even that large place near where we used to live that belong to one of your friends. Man, he had his own lake and everything! I know it disappoints you a little when we had to move to Indian Land, but this place has benefitted me a lot. I was too miserable to stay in Alabama, anyway so we had to move for my own sake since Mom and Dad are very… no, EXTREMELY worried about me. It’s been a good few years since we first settled in this quant little town. Our school bus broke down on our first day of school, we got cable again, my vocabulary grew significantly, you got to drive, we got to go to the Renaissance Festival and an anime convention, I broke my pelvis, our little sister Lauren survived a car accident with a whiplash, we got ourselves an HDTV, we got Ginger, we experienced Smokey’s death, and Mom won a car of her own. Now, it is this.Look at you now, Erin. You are ready to go to college, and I could not figure out how I should feel. I was sad that you won’t be with me the next couple of years I’ll be in high school. I was proud that you got your high school diploma and get to go to a good college so you can get the career you wanted. I was disappointed that I didn’t get any awards this year because I tried my best this year. I was happy that we had fun together all these years. But unfortunately, I’m afraid I might burst into tears because of all these emotions and reasons for feeling that way. I just can’t decide how I truly feel and why. Lots of things you do have inspired me much more than anything else. I mean, look at me. Why else would I be wearing my hair like this? Or wear these glasses? Or read a lot of manga at the school library, play some video games, listening to rock music, and have fun on the Internet? WELL?! You helped me become who I am, for crying out loud and thanks to you, I’m one of the greatest people in this school! Now I have friends, good teachers, a great life, and a cat. As for the boyfriend part, I’ll have to work on that because I don’t have one right now. Anyway, congratulations on making me feel improved despite the fact that I have been living with autism my whole life. I sure appreciate it. By the way, I hope you’ve decided what to get for me for my birthday. If not, I’ll just have to take back everything I just said. PSYCHE! No, seriously, I do hope you got me something. Now, that’s it for the speech. I hope you and everyone else had enjoyed it. Thank you.

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