Voices of the NIH Community

“I hope that I can make them see that I am not just some weirdo”

Thirteen year old Abby McNabb first met pediatric neuropsychologist Blythe Corbett when she participated in SENSE Theatre, Dr. Corbett’s novel intervention research program that uses theatrical techniques to help kids with autism spectrum disorder. Abby tells Dr. Corbett about what it’s like to live with autism and how the NIH-supported SENSE Theatre program has helped her make new friends.


Abby McNabb: I was super nervous doing the play. There was 150 people out there. Several people gave me a hug and that was really meaningful to me.

Blythe Corbett: You were just effervescent. You were beautiful. You were having fun. What was exciting about getting up in front of other people?

Abby McNabb: Well, it was exciting because my mom, my dad, and my little sister was all right there. And the second night, my best friend, Claire, she came all the way down to Huntsville to see me, and that was really, really nice, and I wanted to put on a good show for her. And I also liked it because when I walked up on the stage, I did not feel like Abby. I felt like Lady Bubbles, which was the character that I was playing.

Blythe Corbett: What’s hard about having an autism spectrum disorder?

Abby McNabb: It’s hard for me to have conversations with other girls. You could say the conversation is like a river, and you know how it has forks? And I accidentally go on a different fork in the river, and they are all together on one stream. There is not a canal or anything to get me back on track, and then I just get frustrated, and the kids sometimes think I’m weird. But lately I’ve been getting very much better with that. This Friday, I’m going to go to a sleepover. My Sunday school teacher is inviting all the seventh grade girls, and I hope that I can make them see that I am not just some weirdo. I want them to get to know me.

Blythe Corbett: You give me the impression that things have changed for you…

Abby McNabb: Yes.

Blythe Corbett: …in positive ways.  So, what has changed?

Abby McNabb: Well, Tori during small group—it’s church—she sort of kind of motioned for me to sit down and patted beside her, and of course I was kind of excited, and I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity, so I kind of sat down there and acted cool. But inside, I was doing like a party dance—dun dun duh, dun dun dada—in my head because I was really excited.

Blythe Corbett: So if you were to tell other children your age what they need to do to just help out other kids with autism, what do you want to say to them?

Abby McNabb: If people just notice that we are kind of lonely, we want to play; we want to talk. So can you at least give us a smile every once in a while? It’s kind of all we ask.

This page last reviewed on February 27, 2023