This Up-And-Coming Neurodiverse Actress Will Play An Autistic Teenager On The New TV Series “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay"
Kayla Cromer Opens Up About Her Career, Her Childhood + The Advice She Would Give To Parents Raising Children On The Autism Spectrum.
By PJ Feinstein
Television and film don’t often include autistic characters, and when they do, those individuals are almost always male. That’s why the autism community has been buzzing about the upcoming Freeform comedy “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay.” They’re excited not only because the new series will feature an autistic teenage girl, but also because the actress portraying her, Kayla Cromer, will be the first TV series regular — male or female — on the autism spectrum.
A Hollywood newcomer, Kayla publicly disclosed her autism diagnosis earlier this year at the Freeform Summit press event. “Freeform was opening more doors for diversity, and I felt that was the perfect opportunity,” she says. “With so many changes happening in the entertainment industry, it’s groundbreaking to be on the spectrum, playing a character on the spectrum.”
Growing up with autism, as well as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and ADD, Kayla struggled at school. Taking timed and standardized tests were particularly challenging. “My brain processes differently,” she explains. Everything changed, however, when she was accepted into a private school that specializes in dyslexia and other language-based learning differences. At Chartwell School in Seaside, California, Kayla was able to figure out how she learns best -- and she is extremely grateful to her parents for finding the right educational fit.
“They sacrificed so much to afford my private education,” says Kayla. “I was raised not in wealth but with love. The steps they took to help me empowered me and taught me to be my own advocate.”
Kayla explains that her parents “literally pushed me into situations to prepare me for adulting.” For example, when her mom drove her to auditions in San Francisco, where parking spots are hard to find, Kayla would get out of the car and use her GPS to walk the rest of the way to her destination. “Sounds harsh, but it worked for me and prepared me for Los Angeles,” she says.
As a kid, Kayla also had a hard time initiating conversations and making friends, but being a working actress these past few years has helped her improve her social skills. “To this day, sarcasm, metaphors, and understanding jokes throws me off. But now I can laugh at not having a clue, and people who know me laugh with me.”
For parents raising their own kids with autism, Kayla offers the following advice:
Acknowledge and accept their disabilities.
Provide early intervention and ongoing support.
Help them to discover their strengths and interests.
Teach them life skills starting at an early age.
Practice self-care because parental involvement is vital.
Before the show premieres in 2020, you can watch the trailer here: “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay.”
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