It’s common for brides to go out in public to take pictures on their wedding day. But they aren’t usually mistaken for a Disney princess.
Olivia Spark was taking photos with her new husband on her wedding day in Akron Falls Park, New York when 5-year-old Layla Lester stopped her. Layla was absolutely certain that Spark was Cinderella.
It’s adorable and a sweet compliment, but the real reason that it was so extraordinary is that Layla is autistic. This means she sometimes has a hard time interacting with strangers. But when she saw Spark, Layla didn’t hesitate. To her, Cinderella wasn’t a stranger. She was the princess that she loved.
The interaction was a special experience for both of them.
Spark took the time to talk with the little girl and even gave her a hug. Layla’s mother says she absolutely loves princesses and was thrilled to see a real one out in public.
“I was flattered,” Spark said. “I was in tears that she thought I was a princess, and it just made my day absolutely more amazing than what it already was.”
As Spark and her husband left with their photographer, Layla waved them off and told them to enjoy the ball.
Spark’s wedding day was only the start of their friendship.
When Spark received her wedding photos, she reached out to Layla and her mother to ask if they’d be interested in a second photoshoot together. She shared some of the pictures from her wedding day. Then the new friends took more pictures together in front of a pumpkin carriage. Even though Spark was no longer in her “ball gown,” for Layla, the magic hadn’t died.
It’s not just Layla who thinks Spark’s a princess.
Layla’s mother, Jessica Lester, was touched by Spark’s willingness to reach out to her daughter, even on her own special day. As far as she’s concerned, Spark is the closest thing to a real Cinderella.
“She is the epitome of what a real-life princess would be,” Lester said. “She’s kind and she’s sweet and she went out of her way to be nice to Layla.”
Now, Layla might just be getting the opportunity of her dreams: the chance to meet all the Disney princesses. Spark and her husband have begun a GoFundMe to send Layla and her family to Disney World.
Layla’s shyness around strangers is common for those with autism spectrum disorder.
Autism spectrum disorder isn’t rare. In fact, it affects about one in 59 children. Although it is four times more common in males, females can also be on the autism spectrum.
For many, autism includes difficulty with social interactions. This can mean having a hard time interpreting social cues and understanding the ways that people in society interact with and relate to one another. Many people with autism feel like they have to memorize these social cues, where others learn them instinctively. All of this can make interacting with others intimidating and confusing.
It can also be frustrating because many people with autism spectrum disorder find it difficult to read body language or nonverbal cues or understand the nuances of language that others might take for granted. They may find going out into public overwhelming and feel isolated from others. Many people with autism spectrum disorder also suffer from social anxiety because of these aspects.
Disney World makes an effort to reach out to neurodiverse visitors.
Disney World offers many services to people with autism spectrum disorder, especially children. It now offers a Disability Access Service pass that can help make the parks more enjoyable and easier for those with special needs of any kind. One particular benefit of this is shorter wait times. Lines are long at Disney parks, and this can be difficult for children with autism spectrum disorder. A DAS pass helps Disney cast members give estimates on how long wait times might be and allows visitors to bypass long lines. This can make visits much easier and more enjoyable.
The parks also encourage visitors with special needs to ask if there are any possible accommodations for shows or rides. The staff tries to do everything possible to make a visit pleasant.
Now, Layla gets to be friends with all her favorite princesses.
Spark is grateful to have met Layla and says the little girl made her wedding day magical. The little girl, meanwhile, gets to be friends with a Disney princess. Hopefully, she and her mother are able to get to Disney World and meet the rest of her favorite characters.
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