That place, for us, was therapy. Yes, that same place many kids complain - or even scream - about having to attend, and where most siblings beg not to be dragged along. We loved it. Not every aspect, of course. No matter what a therapist does, handwriting practice is still handwriting practice. But at therapy Caley and I could hang out with other kids with no fear of teasing or bullying. Our five best friends there had diagnoses ranging from autism to intellectual handicaps to cerebral palsy to just plain old neurotypical (another sibling who'd been brought along). But we didn't distinguish between any of them. We were all just kids, plain and simple.
In that waiting room, there was no such thing as disability, not in the social construct context. No one was teased for being weird or made fun of for...well, anything at all. Caley's first words to our friend V were, in fact, "I like your boots." Which were not boots at all, V explained, giggling. Turns out they were actually orthotic braces (which, I still remember, had the coolest pictures of fish on them). But at therapy we didn't think of these as marks of difference. We saw them as just part of being, which sometimes looked pretty cool.
I've written about it before (http://www.autismspectrumexplained.com/our-blog/on-therapy-friendships-arcade-tickets-and-acts-of-kindness) and I know I'll write about it again, because it was just SUCH a life-changing experience, the sort I wish for for everyone, the sort that helped inspire me to pursue a career as a therapist myself.
Eventually insurance kicked Caley (and one of our other friends) out of therapy, but I will always remember how the beauty of the absolute acceptance there, and seek to recreate it wherever I go. Because every child deserves a space like that.