As a child, I had very few experiences with people with special needs. During the 1980's, children with special needs in my school district were bused to a special school. It was quite an insult during that time for someone to accuse you of being "retarded" or ask if you "rode the short bus". In my neighborhood, there was a young man with special needs. Looking back now, it seems likely that he had a severe form of autism. However, as a child, we regarded him as the "Boo Radley" of our street.
My how times have changed! Despite a rocky start, children with special needs have played an increasingly significant role in my life. I wrote about my journey as an inclusion teacher in this post. My own children have a real heart for people with special needs. My daughter asked me to join her in volunteering with a foundation called Anchor of Hope. One Friday night a month, we provide a fun night for kids with special needs while their parents get a much needed night off to shop, eat dinner at a restaurant, or see a movie.
This past Friday, at our volunteer dinner, we watched an amazing video on autism called "Just Like You". The video does an incredible job using young people with and without disabilities to explain the specific needs of kids with autism. They build empathy for their struggles while also explaining how to be friends with them. They have a second video that is equally as wonderful on Down Syndrome. Please take the time to watch these videos and share them. Consider sharing them with your special education director, school counselor, or principal. These could help educate the next generation so that they will be wiser and kinder than we were.
Down Syndrome Video