When I was in elementary school, my family moved to a different part of the city. In our new neighborhood there were many children. Some lived on our little street, and others in the homes around the corner from us. It was fun getting to know the other kids, as I roamed through my new surroundings, walking and observing. And as I went about my new adventure, I encountered two adults that I had never seen before. They had special needs.
I was intrigued as I tried not to stare, as my mother told me that staring at others, especially those with disabilities was not polite. Yet, I found myself looking with interest.
One of the two women, lived around the corner and every time I would see her, she was sitting the porch of her house with her family surrounding her. I noticed her rocking back and forth, clapping her hands, and stumping her feet, as a big smile brightened her face. She seemed so happy.
Then, there was the other woman, who lived across the street from me. She also lived with her family, however I rarely seen her outside. When I did catch a glimpse of her, it was when I walked passed her house on my way to play with friends. She would stand in the doorway or look out of the living room window, as she moved her head and made noise.
Whenever I looked at those two women, my young and immature mind, would question,”What was wrong with them?”, “How did they become like that?” “Why did they move and shake?” and “Why did they not speak like me?”
I wished that someone was able to answer those questions of my heart, because later I learned from my peers who weren’t so kind. Kids who addressed those with intellectual disabilities with derogatory terms, and without love and compassion. These kids, I later figured, were also misinformed and were not taught how to be respectful to others with differences.
Now as an adult, I appreciate every opportunity that I have, to speak to the hearts of children. Whether it is in public when I am asked about my son (read post), to my relatives or the children of my friends, and to my students in my classroom.
I want to answer the questions that appear on their faces and in their minds, about people with disabilities. I want to bring awareness to them at their young age, before they encounter those who don’t have the sensitivity or knowledge to respectfully educate them about others with special needs.