Thursday, January 31, 2013

Every life has value

Recently, the article about the waiter Michael Garcia who stood up for 5 year old Milo, a child diagnosed with Down's Syndrome was splashed all over the newspapers as well as the internet. Sure, this made everybody respect his morals and he is the topic of conversation in many of the schools that I serve. But how many of us have actually thought about this incident more seriously? Has society paused and taken a step back to re-consider why these so called 'normal' people with their self proclaimed broad minds so heartlessly discriminate against children with special needs?

Milo, the child in question has Down's Syndrome which is a condition caused by a chromosomal abnormality in humans. The facial characteristics of those affected are very distinct and they also present with delays in cognition and motor development. About half the children I work with are diagnosed with Down's, and I have to say this, that they are the most affectionate of the lot. Not to mention extremely motivated and eager to please. 

I was in a school meeting last week wherein we were discussing the progress made by Joe (name changed for privacy for HIPAA purposes) who has Down's Syndrome. The joy on the parents' faces each time we spoke about how well Joe is doing and how much progress he has made was indescribable; and the respect that I felt for them at that moment was far more than I have felt for anybody in a while.

It's sad how some people would view this as kind of a 'tragedy' in their lives. But the parents of children with special needs do not feel sorry for themselves. Not one bit. They are just like any other parent, trying their best to help their child succeed in the world. These are their children and they are proud of the way they are bringing them up. "Is your child walking yet? Is he talking yet?" Society needs to understand that kids with special needs are on their own timeline; and it's not focusing on the speed of development that is important, it's about the progress these angels make, every step of the way. 

"Your child looks so normal!" What exactly is NORMAL anyway? Atypical would be more of an apt word to describe their lives. Yes, their needs are different from those of a typically developing child, but focus on their abilities, not their disabilities. See what is wonderful in them., not pitiful. 
Changing how we view children with disabilities is a critical step in promoting and protecting their basic human rights. 

For those of you who did not know, I am a Pediatric Occupational Therapist working in a public school system, serving children with special needs. And I am incredibly PROUD to do so. 

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