Thursday, August 2, 2012

If We'd All Just Listen a Little Closer

My friend just posted this video:

I clicked on it, thinking it would be some cute story about an Autistic girl learning to sing or something like that. For those of you who don't know, my youngest brother has Down Syndrome, so special needs kids have such a hold on my heart. I have also worked with them as a substitute teacher and through a program when I was in middle school, and I can honestly say no child or person will love you more, or accept you without hesitation or expectation than those with special needs. I remember teaching in a special needs class, and the moment one of the little boys rolled himself in on his wheelchair, he took one look at me, his eyes lit up, and he asked "do you want to be my friend?" My heart instantly just melted. I also worked on a train in Durango--every winter we would put on the Polar Express, and I would work as a chef, serving hot chocolate, singing songs, and getting everyone excited about Christmas--and one night, I had a group of disabled adults. Among those, I had a Down Syndrome couple sitting at a table for two. I usually go around and ask the passengers about their lives and their Christmas experience thus far, etc. and this night was different only for the fact that I had far less passengers, so I got more time to talk to each of them. So, as I was talking to this couple, I asked how their Christmas season was going. The girl responded that it was going to be the greatest Christmas of her life, because she was finally getting exactly what she wanted. When I asked her what that was, the man sitting with her grabbed her hand and said "I just asked her to be my sweetheart for the rest of my life." My eyes tear up just writing this.

So I watched that video, and I cannot possibly express how it touched me. As much as I love those kids, I will be the first to admit I'm pretty ignorant about their conditions. I know that my brother, having Down Syndrome, meant he had one extra chromosome, and I know common mannerisms and tendencies, but I have never really understood just how that effects him. I had a couple kids in my class all through school that I worked with and talked to and knew as a presence, but never took the time to try to understand. I never knew why one of the Autistic girls could never look at me, or why one of the boys would sometimes cover his ears, I just thought it was a body function that they couldn't control or something. I never would have guessed that it was because they needed to block out sensory overload. The girl in this video is completely aware when she is being asked a question. She knows what's going on around her, and because her parents didn't give up on her, didn't write her off, and loved her so much, she is able to communicate exactly what she is thinking or what she wants. So often I think society disregards these kids because they don't out rightly show that they understand this world around them, but that is evidently so far from the truth. How much would these kids have to tell us if everyone took the time to really, genuinely listen?

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