If we were having coffee right now, I’d tell you very random things, because that’s how this week has been.
Apart from all the studying and writing and editing (I didn’t send out that story I’d been meaning to after my previous post because I found the way to fix it as soon as I published that post), there has been one interesting story worth sharing with you all this week.
On the sixth of April, our school took all Psychology students on an educational trip to a school for children with special needs (CWSN) so that we could interact closely with the kids suffering from disorders we’ll be studying in Abnormal Psychology this year. and understand better how these children and their teachers and parents deal with their disorders. There were children suffering from ADHD, autism, Down’s syndrome, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, etc., who are given speech and occupational therapy, according to their individual needs.
This year we are also supposed to do a case study. Many students in my class chose children studying with special educators at our school, most of them learning disabled or ADHD kids. But I thought it was too common a topic and one that most had chosen so I decided to take one of the kids from this special school as my subject. I was particularly interested in kids with Down’s syndrome and cerebral palsy, but since these were not a part of our syllabus, I couldn’t take them as my subjects. So instead I chose a kid with an intellectual disability (ID). It is also called mental retardation, but over the years it has come to be known as a politically incorrect and offensive term, so I’m calling it intellectual disability instead, which is now used more often.
The next day, with permission from our principal and our Psychology teacher, me and a couple of my classmates went to that school again to study and observe our respective subjects. My subject was particularly very calm and differed in many ways from most children with ID. He didn’t speak much to me, or to anyone, for that matter, but his teachers and therapists have told me that with continuous therapy and attention he could make a lot of improvement, and that made me happy.
Another thing worth mentioning was that on the day of our visit, we met this little kid with cerebral palsy, who I’ll call M. He was a cheerful little kid who was overall very good in social behavior and development but needed speech therapy because his mouth and tongue had problem functioning. He said “Hello” when his teacher introduced us to him, and later as we were talking to his teacher about him and other kids in his class, I turned to look at him only to find him grinning and waving at me, and, honestly, I’ve never felt so good.
The next day, as I was waiting to talk to my subject’s speech therapist, whose office is exactly opposite to M’s class, M walked by. He recognized me instantly, squealed with delight and waved at me with such joy as I’ve never seen before, and that was the highlight of my week. Not just the week, I think, but the entire year. I don’t remember when was the last time someone was so happy when they saw me.
What touched me was that we had met only very, very briefly, and despite him being so young, he actually remembered me and was happy to see me. He’s a happy-go-lucky kid in general, but still. I feel something growing in my heart even as I write this. I so wish I could see him again, but unfortunately the school doesn’t allow frequent visitors.
Now everyone, after such trips, says that they learned to be grateful that their physical and mental health was normal. I did too, and I’ll keep learning that lesson every time I meet differently-abled people, but the one thing that I realized there was that in the end, we’re all humans. When we can accept different colors of skin, then why can’t we accept different ways of living and loving? I think every person should be friends with at least one differently-abled person. That, and making public places and our attitude towards them more friendly is what will make them feel included. What will not work is merely shouting slogans or identifying them through their disability. Change begins with thought, but it only takes place with action.
The only disability in life is a bad attitude. – Scott Hamilton