If you take the time to watch this video; you will understand the title of this blog post. Often, if we will just remove the limitations that others put on our special needs loved ones abilities; we will see them bloom and grow. How much of the world is kept from a special needs person because someone else thinks that they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be capable of more. I love this video because it is a reminder that we all need room to spread out our wings just to see where we can go! Encourage them to explore their skills and talents; or, to pursue their interests … and never underestimate a special needs persons ability to achieve.
I recently had the pleasure of witnessing the power of seeing special needs students who were trained at doing a job and felts a sense of empowerment with their purpose. It was a simple program that is funded by donations from their customers or clients. The group of Autistic students get “hired” to go to homes and businesses and steam clean carpets.
This local program is in danger of being phased out. A new person took over and therefore did not have all of the contacts that the previous person had. However, in the last couple of weeks of this summer’s program things picked up. The students get booked by an organizer and they go to local businesses or homes at an appointed time and they steam clean. They were excited when they arrived and they were diligent in doing their jobs. There was a team of 2-3 students and a couple of adult supervisors. This worked out wonderfully. Was the carpet cleaning equal to a professional cleaning? No, however they didn’t charge a professional price either. I felt that the service they performed was worthy of being a paid job. They used regular upright steam cleaners that anyone could buy and cleaning solution that you could buy in a box store; but in general the results were clean and fresh.
It was awesome to see pride on their faces when thanked for performing the carpet cleaning service. They had a passion for doing their “job” right. They appeared to feel happy to have a purpose. In fact, the teacher told me that she was concerned about how they would feel for the rest of the summer when they didn’t have a job to get up for; she said there were some students who would get filled with anxiety when there were no “jobs”.
I would love to see more programs developed for special needs individuals…both those who are in school and those who are older. Everyone has abilities, skills and knowledge…why not harness the best opportunities that will enrich the lives of a special needs person? Do you know of any programs that exist in cities or rural areas that build up the life of a person who was born with challenges? Tell us about it please.
When you are raising special needs children you know how painful it can be for your child to be excluded from other children and their activities. Sometimes your child’s challenges prohibit them from sharing an activity or experience that other children around them enjoy…but other times, it is either through prejudice or mis-information…or, a lack of understanding. No matter the reason, being excluded is not fun and can actually be harmful to your child’s self-esteem and their ability to form positive social interative relationships. Therefore, teaching how to accept and include others is a huge life lesson for families, schools, churches, organizations and agencies.
That is why i love the book called, The Friendship Puzzle. The children’s book is all about helping children to learn about the importance of accepting and including kids who are living with autism. It talks about differences and how friendships are formed once we understand each other. We have to learn to look beyond the surface of who a person appears to be different from ourselves; to see the real them. Then, we must find ways to include each other in our daily lives for a chance to become friends. Sometimes it is easy to misunderstand another person’s actions when we don’t understand why they do or say certain things; or, behave in a different way.
The Friendship Puzzle was written by Julie L. Coe and illustrated by Sondra l. Brassel. The book was inspired by Jennifer Maloni who’s children Dominic and Dylan are living with autism. The boys experienced a similar real life experience that was sad and disappointing. That experience is used in this book to make a difference in how we view people with disabilities. You can learn more about the book and where to purchase it here: http://www.friendshippuzzle.com/ This is not an affiliate link… it is just a book that I happen to adore.
That message, of accepting and including one another, is very profound. We can all apply that message in multiple ways to better the relationships we have with others without regard to abilities or disabilities; it is something that we can all improve on. This book and a recent news piece on an amusement park for those who are disabled reminded me of how often people neglect to include those who are different from ourselves in the things we enjoy; simply out of ignorance of how to do it.
The amusement park I read about is called Morgans Wonderland and it is in San Antonio, Texas. It was built by a father after a failed attempt by his daughter Morgan to interact in play with other children due to her disabilities and the lack of clear communication between the children alongside of a pool. The other children were playing with a beach ball and she wanted to play too…but lack of communication and understanding prevented continued play. This kind of situation can be heartbreaking…but in this case it was the catalyst he needed to dream of a place where special needs people and their families and caregivers could come and be included in all of the activities.
Gordon Hartman was the father and he has achieved his dream. Morgans Wonderland is a 25 acre park that lets the special need individual be themselves and experience the joy of an amusement park just like anyone else. They utilize volunteers at their park and they encourage families to come and enjoy their time together. I love the idea behind this park. If you are interested in learning more about Morgan’s Wonderland and all it has to offer…please click here: http://www.morganswonderland.com/morgans-wonderland-tell-us-about-inclusion.asp Again, this is not an affiliate link…it is just a place where a family can go to relax and have a positive family experience with their special needs loved one.
I just want to thank the Gordon Hartman’s and the Julie Coe’s of this world who realize the importance of acceptance and inclusion.