Girl with autism meets real-life Cinderella, who then sent to her Disney World

Girl with autism forms bond with "Cinderella"

This story originally aired on Oct. 26, 2018. 

Akron, N.Y. -- Five-year-old Layla Lester loves to play princesses. In fact, nothing delights her more.

So imagine the joy when Layla, who has autism, saw one of her favorite characters come to life.

"I just heard Layla run away from me screaming, 'Cinderella!  Cinderella!,'" said her mother, Jessica.  

As if she'd spotted Cinderella?  

"She definitely believed it was Cinderella," Jessica said. 

As we first reported a couple months ago, Layla's mom, Jessica, said the woman her daughter now believes to be Cinderella, is actually a heavy equipment operator from western New York named Olivia Spark. Layla came to this conclusion after spotting Olivia at Akron Falls Park on her wedding day. Layla made a beeline.

Olivia Spark with Layla Lester Jessica Lester

"I'm like, 'Layla, don't bother them. They're in the middle of a photo shoot,'" Jessica said.

You're used to chasing Layla around, apologizing for her?  

"Absolutely, and that meant a lot -- that I didn't need to apologize for her," Jessica said. 

Olivia not only welcomed Layla -- she played along.

"I was more than happy to be Cinderella for that little girl," Olivia said. 

She talked to Layla for quite a while, before finally telling her she had to get back to the ball.

But that's not the end to this fairy tale. Since their chance meeting, Cinderella has stayed in touch with her little Princess Charming, making Layla the happiest royal subject in the kingdom.

Olivia came over one day, in wedding dress and our request, but they see each other all the time now.

"It's an instant bond. They love each other. It's cute," Jessica said. 

Jessica said normally Layla won't even talk to strangers, but she has clearly made an exception for Cinderella, who, as it turns out, also has a little bit of fairy godmother in her. Olivia and her family started a GoFundMe to send Layla and her family to Disney World, where Layla got to meet a good friend of Cinderella's: another princess who, coincidentally, is also named Cinderella.  

So Layla now has two princess friends. But as far Layla's mother is concerned, the real Cinderella will always be back home.

You believe in her. 

"Yea, I do. She's the epitome of a true princess. She's kind. She's sweet. She went out of her way to make Layla's day special. And who would do that other than a true princess?" Jessica said. 

I guess they don't all wear glass slippers. 

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  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.