Energetic and enthusiastic, Kaitlyn Lye will be one of Variety’s “Youth Champions” for the charity’s annual Variety Show of Hearts Telethon, scheduled to air across the airwaves and livestream on Global BC this weekend.
“I’m really excited, but also kind of nervous,” Lye said. “One of my big fears about things like this is people may get my message wrong. It might come across as me saying something that I don’t mean it to be and I may hurt someone’s feelings or feel bad about themselves. It’s the last thing I want to do.”
Born in 2009, the 14-year-old was diagnosed with autism in 2021. As she is asked about this, she displays an expertise and wisdom that radiates beyond her years.
“Autism is a spectrum. Each individuals needs are different,” explains Lye. “Because they are different, their challenges are different. Mine change every day. Now when I hear the word autism, I just see it as a different way of seeing things. A different point of view.”
From the very beginning, Lye’s parents Philip and Selinda knew there was something unique about their daughter.
“There was a lot of routines that she would adhere to,” says Kaitlyn’s father Philip, who worked with special needs in the school system, as well as spent time as a behavioural therapist. “Places she’d sit in the car. Foods that she would or wouldn’t eat, her preferences were texture based. Even the clothes she wore couldn’t have tags on them.”
Adds mother, Selinda, herself a former early childhood educator, “She started talking at 18 months old. She had an extensive vocabulary. When she was three years old, she would tell stories. She’d walk upstairs or downstairs and say things like ‘It was a dark and stormy day. Kaitlyn turned on the light,’ as she’d walk into a room. We thought to ourselves ‘hey, she’s very unique.’”
After exhaustive diagnosis over the years, they received funding for Kaitlyn’s development in Oct. 2021. For both parents, it was a blessing.
“The funding we received from Variety was amazing,” said Selinda. “The accommodations we got into are recommended by Sparks here in town. Her teachers also provide details to see what supports best help her succeed.”
Founded in the late 1920’s, Variety is a worldwide charity which provides assistance to children with special needs, with chapters – often called “tents” – all over the world. Since 2010, it has distributed more than $40 million in funding to families and organizations in communities across B.C.
While she might be a star this weekend, Kaitlyn isn’t sure how her peers at school will react.
“Half of them think I’m faking, or I’ll just be in the crowd,” said Kaitlyn. The other half is super excited and is going to be watching. Or think they’ll forgetting something, and remember “Oh that’s right! Kaitlyn’s going to be on TV.”
Philip and Selinda couldn’t be more proud of their daughter.
“When she was little, she wanted to be an actress,” said Philip. “When she realized people on TV were actual people that were just pretending. She went and did it, and landed commercials. When she was told she was autistic, she was able to take that, and realize that is what made her special. It makes me so proud of her to go into that Variety telethon and share that with the rest of the community as well.”
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