As much as I hate this about myself, I am absolutely the person that sometimes labels an individual as “That Person.”
I, a special needs mother am uncomfortable being around people who are different from me! Not all the time… but sometimes… It doesn’t matter what the difference is really. It can be language, appearance, height, or sound, or smell, or status, or or or or or….
Unfortunately in my discomfort I sometimes think of a person as “That Person” or “That Girl” or “That Boy”…. It’s just kind of, well… human. I don’t think it comes from a place of hatred. Actually I’m certain it doesn’t. It usually comes when I’m intrigued and would love to know more, but don’t know how to ask and don’t want to stare.
“That Boy” has a name. He has a story. He has loved ones and favorites and hobbies. “That Boy” is a human, much more similar to me than I know.
For this reason, ever since Kindergarten I have gone into Ollie’s class within the first month and done a “Welcome to Me” kind of presentation for Ollie. He often plays a part in it and has always been very proud. It not only gives kids a chance to ask questions, but it also lets them see that he’s really not that different from themselves.
Last weekend I was chatting with a mom whose child has cerebral palsy. She said that she went into his classroom and did a presentation about him last week and began with a game. Every time the kids had the same like or dislike, she had all the children touch their nose or touch their knees or whatever. She would say for example, “Touch your knees if you like to help your dad in the garden.” Then a bunch of kids would relate and they’d see that they really weren’t that different from her child. All in all, the students were much more friendly with her child after she explained that he had had an ‘owie’ in the womb that hurt his brain and now he functions differently. Her joy from this finding was tangible.
I LOVE THIS PROCESS.
So when I asked the teacher about doing it this year (granted- I asked in the first week- poor timing on my part!) and she didn’t respond super quick, I was a little bit bummed. I wasn’t quite sure that she’d want to do it at all- again this is ME sulking/evaluating! She’s been an incredible teacher thus far. As I was trying to figure out if I should ask again, I started to take inventory on what and how Ollie’s doing and how his peer relationships are….
After combing through his life, I found such fun answers…
- Kids I don’t even know stop us when we’re in the neighborhood or the community and SIGN “Hi Ollie, My Name is ….” and then they finger-spell their name.
- Yesterday I was told that he’s been teaching his entire class a sign of the day during their circle time.
- Two-thirds of his class are the same ones from last year. These kids know each other.
Case in point: I need to chill 🙂 I need to slow my roll and enjoy the progress that has been made. He’s making friends. Students are playing with him. He’s not “That Boy” over there… At this point it might be more weird to do the “Welcome to Me” presentation, than to not do it.
It’s so funny how the short-comings that I possess and dislike about myself become the things that I fear others will have as well. I would love to get more positive and comfortable so this is not a continual glitch for me.
Ultimately, I cannot express the amount of gratitude that I have for all of these amazing friends and teachers and supervisors and aides that make such an amazing space for my kids! I am soooooo incredibly grateful!