Tags: In This Issue, Special Needs
Mahatma Gandhi is credited with saying, "We must be the change we want to see in the world." I know a young entrepreneur who sells T-shirts with this quote on it. He happens to have Down syndrome, and has a business selling items featuring disability-related messages.
The change I want to see is that people with disabilities are not treated as if they are invisible. I recently observed a school social function in which there were several "typically developing" middle school students and one student with autism. This young lady tried to sit near her peers and be involved. They seemed embarrassed, looked away, and even whispered behind her back. It was painful to watch. But, one student approached the girl and engaged her in conversation. I wondered: would I have done that as a student?
The next day, I attended a worship service to present an award. I sat alone and waited for it to begin. Everyone sat in the first few rows of pews. A man in a wheelchair was brought in and situated in the back of the sanctuary. He appeared to be mentally as well as physically challenged. I thought about the students and Gandhi, and decided to be the change. I got up my courage and asked the man if I could sit next to him. We had a meaningful conversation and I made a friend! He told me he suffered brain damage while in high school. Although he wasn't his former self, he wasn't someone to be overlooked, either. He had thoughts and feelings just like the rest of us.
My only regret is that my children were not with me that day. I invite you to be the change, and let your kids see you doing it. Everyone has a contribution to make.
Lead Ally, Autism Society of Indiana