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Subject:  She doesn't care how much Eisner makes Date:  5/19/2001  3:46 PM
Author:  tpault Number:  12991 of 52142

I know someone who doesn't care if failed. She is unfazed by Eisner's stock options. She doesn't even care if California Adventure goes bankrupt.

She's 10 years old, her name is Andrea, and she's autistic.

My daughter made a new friend, Liz, at school, and they've been trading play time over each other's house. I met Liz's family including her sister Andrea this weekend.

Andrea is generally out of touch with her surroundings except whatever pure and raw emotion controls her at any particular time. Living in a farm setting in a grove of trees, it was almost eerie to hear her screaming bloody murder for 10 minutes, because her older brother went over the neighbors to play. I have never heard a more echo-ing, dominating whale in my life than that of her deafening screeches, bouncing off the surrounding trees and house. My head literally reverberated with her ear-drum rattling sobs.

Such is a normal thing at my daughter's friend's house.

Liz came to spend the night with my daughter last night and I couldn't help but think about Andrea. Poor Andrea, who doesn't get invited over to the neighbors to play with the same little girl, her age by the way, that her older brother is always asked to come over and play with. Andrea, who sits at home with only the echo of her tormented soul crying out in that grove of trees, to keep her company. That, and of course her mother, who at times like these is unable to console her. She's learned that she can only let Andrea get it out of her system.

We all went to see Shrek. Me, Sarah, and Liz. Andrea stayed home, again.

Trying to guide my daughter in parental ways that us dads should, I asked Sarah if she had any chldren's videos that she thought Andrea may like. Liz told me that Andrea loves videos.

Sarah dug up an old Pooh video. We took it to the kitchen counter where I rummaged through the junk drawer for some tape, so that she could tape a "To Andrea, From Sarah, with love" note to the slightly worn video.

What luck. We came across an old Pooh bag from Walt Disney World, just big enough for the video to fit nicely in. I also came across a little Minnie figurine, about an inch and a half tall. I said "here, throw this in there too."

We took Liz home, and Sarah gave Andrea the gift.

This time that grove of trees echoed only with the sound of joy and love, as Andrea exclaimed at the top of her ungs...

Turns out that autistic children almost always have a fixation on something in particular. As Andrea's mom explained, for some it may be something totally illogical, such as stop signs. With Andrea, wouldn't you know it...her fixation is with little figurines, about an inch and a half tall.

I write this with moist eyes.

For the half hour I was there chatting with Liz's mom and dad, Andrea held Minnie with both hands, her tiny little fingers (she's physically underdeveloped) pinching the tiny little Minnie by each of her arms. She smiled from ear to ear for a half hour straight.

Andrea doesn't care what Disney's pro-forma profit or one-time charges are this year. She doesn't care if Dreamworks takes a little of the market away from Disney. She's so in tune with basic emotion and raw feelings that she, maybe above geniuses, industry analysts, and Disney experts on Motley Fool, is qualified to share what Disney means.

That little piece of Disneyana that she now holds in her hands probably even as I write this, represents shared joy and communication that you normally can't get from her. A hello, a "my, what a pretty little girl," or anything else that other children respond to don't seem to penetrate her protective shell of isolation. But the Disney gifts to her brought an eagle-spread, open-armed embrace and kiss on my daughter's cheek.

Thanks, Disney. You made her day. And my day too.

Paul T.
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