A co-worker was recently telling me about a situation her daughter was having at school. She had just started middle school, and a boy in her class was intimidating her. He had a menacing stare when he looked at her, he behaved in a way that suggested he wasn't a very nice kid, and he was just. plain. BIG. I give this girl huge props for telling her mom about it. She was unsure of what to do, and felt afraid. Her mother, a former educator, pieced together some of the information her daughter had relayed to her, and thought that perhaps this boy had some sort of learning/social disability. Upon doing some checking, she discovered that, indeed, he had autism, and his signals were likely being misinterpreted. The daughter, a very sweet young lady with a real desire to learn and to help others, who had come to our Buddy Walk and absolutely loved it the year before, wanted to know what she could do to break the ice with him. Her mom suggested she find something he's interested in, and bring him something related to that.
He was interested in Star Wars.
She brought him a book.
And they've been friends ever since, with a bond likely never experienced by either of them before.
Her eyes are open now, to others who may be misunderstood, who may have problems adapting socially, who just need a friend.
She's a Girl Scout. Last month, the girls in her troop were given a project to do research on a topic and present it to the group for a badge. She told her mom she wanted to do her project on Down syndrome.
Can you see me smiling from wherever you are?
This young lady is one of the people who will go on to change the world.
This young lady is paving the way for acceptance, tolerance and respect for people with differences.
This young lady is teaching lessons in humanity.
To say I'm truly impressed is an understatement.
I told her I'd love to be her mentor on the project, to help her with some of the information, and to be there on her presentation night to answer any questions, and she's excitedly accepted my assistance.
I'm really not sure who's more excited, her or me...
A different co-worker approached me a few weeks ago to tell me that he'd just discovered that his niece was in Samantha's class. He doesn't live in our town. He probably didn't even know what town I live in. Curious, I asked him how he'd pieced together that information. He said that he was in the room with his sister when his niece came home from school, excitedly telling her mom about a little girl in her class that she absolutely loved.
A little girl with Down syndrome, named Samantha.
My co-worker has met Sammi several times, and figured it out immediately.
How cool is that?
A little girl in her class that she loves...
This is 3rd grade. Any differences are totally obvious, laid bare, ever-present and part of the day-to-day.
My daughter is accepted by her peers.
Yes, I knew this already, but this year she's in a class with all new children, only two of whom she'd had class with before. A whole new crop of kids exposed to her larger-than-life personality, her quirks, her idiosyncrasies, her endless supply of stubborn.
And they accept and love her.
They, too, will go on to teach others the same acceptance, tolerance and respect. They, too, will teach lessons in humanity.
The world will continue to become a better place for everyone, one new teacher at a time.