Young Sarah Seevers is a busy young lady. Already, this 14-year-old Drum Intermediate School student has a resume´ that boasts a variety of skills that most would envy. Seevers is a member of the Tacoma Youth Chorus. She is a gold level swimmer with the University Place Aquatic Club swim team, the Sharks. Not only that, but she attends art classes at Studio 27 and she plays the viola. While Sarah manages to be busy with swim, song and school, this summer she plans to attend art and sewing camps and spruce up her babysitting toolbox with first aid and CPR courses. She also happens to be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
ASD is still a bit of a mystery to many. A diagnosis doesn’t define an individual, and how it is displayed from one person to the next varies, as the diagnosis is a complex disorder that can mean a variety of social and behavioral delays. Sarah falls on the high functioning scale of ASD. To meet her in person she is shy and quiet. She fidgets with the label of her beverage and looks to her parents, Kim, a parish administrator and real estate agent and Curt, a deputy with the Sheriff’s office, for support when talking to a stranger. But when she sings, she shines.
Seevers has performed with the TYC for years, now approaching her fourth season. She has belted out Christmas classics solo at Saint Charles and has opened swim club meets with the national anthem. She’s continuing to hone her musical prowess with an upcoming appearance on Memorial Day singing the national anthem and “Amazing Grace,” accompanied by a husband and wife duo of bagpipers, at the New Tacoma Cemetery’s annual gathering to honor and celebrate those who have served in the military. When asked what her favorite song to sing is, she couldn’t pick a favorite but expressed a penchant for the national anthem due to her dad’s military past and his current work on the police force.
She has another big upcoming appearance singing the National Anthem at a Rainiers game on June 27 as a part of their tribute to “sensory awareness.” Sarah’s mom Kim says, “Sarah is a patient at the Seattle Autism Center and continues to share her gift of music with others in her community. Part of learning to live with autism is taking part in exposure therapy. Sarah shares her gifts while working to overcome the obstacles of autism through exposure therapy. The national anthem at the Rainiers game will be part of the therapy Sarah is receiving while giving back to her community.”
The Seevers strive to provide opportunities for their daughter to engage with her community but stress that they couldn’t do it alone. They go on to say, “This little girl has grown so much. We not only want to acknowledge her accomplishments but recognize the teachers in U.P. who have served her, the UPAC swim coaches, the president of New Tacoma Cemetery, the director of Tacoma Youth Chorus and her speech therapist, Diana Dean, the staff at Seattle Autism Center and Mrs. Bishop her counselor at Drum.” This acknowledgement is just one step in “breaking the stigma that surrounds autism,” as Mrs. Seevers puts it. And opening a dialogue about autism and recognizing that support and advocacy can benefit not just Sarah, but others who are diagnosed as well.
As for what is in store for Sarah, ultimately, she’d like to make it as a professional singer one day or, as a math lover, teach technology. Her big goal in the more immediate future? “To sing for the Seahawks,” she says with a sly smile.