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Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My New Volunteer Job Maybe

I don't know this little guy... but I didn't steal
him from anyone's blog or Facebook page, so don't
worry! I got him from Wikimedia Commons! 
When I was teaching my summer school class, out of the nine kids I had, five of them had Down syndrome. It was kind of a new experience for me because usually I end up working with kids with autism spectrum disorders. A long time ago I did respite care for a few older kids with Down syndrome, but other than that, I had never gotten to know many people with this condition. 
Whenever I told people I was working with kids with Down syndrome for the summer, people would say things like, "Oh, they're the ones who are big huggers, right?" For some reason there are a lot of people who believe that people with Down syndrome are always happy. I have no idea where this idea came from. 
I mean, I'm not trying to say that people with Down syndrome are unpleasant in any way. Although they can be. Like the first grade girl in my class who, out of the blue, walked up to me and spit a mouthful of graham crackers into my hair. That was not pleasant! Or when a second grade girl picked up my shoebox full of crayons and dumped it in the garbage can. Not pleasant! Or the third grade boy who ran away from me on the playground when it was time to go home, so that I had to chase him down and capture him to march him inside, and he spent the whole time telling me, "I not like you!" Not too pleasant!
On the other hand, there were many, many, very cool moments. Like the little girl who would exclaim, "Thank you, thank you, oh, thank you!" whenever you handed her something, like a pencil or a box of crayons. Or the girl who, after she did her work, would pat herself on the head and say, "Good job!" Or the boy who, when he was asked to draw his favorite part of summer school, drew a stick figure and told me, "I drew you!" (He was the same little boy who told me he didn't like me when he ran away from me on the playground, by the way. He was also the same little kid who wouldn't get on the bus to go home unless I was the one to walk him to the bus and buckle him in! That's why, when little kids tell you they hate you after you just handed them a consequence, you shouldn't take them too seriously.) Or the tiny girl who could barely speak but somehow managed to communicate her thoughts and needs anyway, either by crossing her arms and stomping her feet when she didn't want to do something, or flashing her huge, beautiful smile when she was happy, or babbling to herself contentedly whenever you let her color with crayons. (Or dry erase markers. She sure loved dry erase markers! When she ran out of room on the dry erase board, she would color on the floor. Which, luckily, is kind of like a giant dry erase board anyways!) 
If there is one blanket statement I could say about everyone I've ever met who has Down syndrome, it would be that they have very strong personalities. Nobody is happy all the time. i think it is pretty much humanly impossible. But when people with Down syndrome are happy, they'll show you. And when they're sad or angry or scared, they'll show you that too. And if they don't want to do something, they'll let you know. If they don't want to do your stupid ABC worksheet, they'll throw the pencil on the floor and walk away. They're very genuine. 
Even this, I can't say about all people with Down syndrome, because I haven't met them all yet... but from my observations, it is true of the people I've known. 
Where am I going with all this?
There is a place near where I live that is sort of a community center for people with Down syndrome. They have different groups for parents and children, groups for older kids, groups for adults, etc. I've always kind of wanted to volunteer there, but I've been nervous about it... I don't know why. It just seemed like the kind of place where, if you volunteered there, people would expect you to be happy and jumping around all the time. (Ironically.) But today I went to the volunteer orientation and signed up to volunteer!
I don't know what will come of it. A lot of their programs occur in the day time, and, hopefully, I will be working during the day time soon. And I already have a volunteer job (at a pet rescue organization) that I do on Saturdays. So we will have to see if they can come up with something I can do that fits into my potentially busy schedule! But I am really looking forward to it. And as soon as I start, I will let you know all about it! 

That is one of my Happiness Challenge things for the day. I am happy that I signed up to volunteer there, and that I may really get to volunteer. I am also happy that I ordered a practice drum set so I can start learning to play the drums! And I am happy that I just ate an ice cream cone and I might have another one because they are Mini Drumsticks so they are pretty small. 
Those are some great things to be happy about, right?

1 comment :

  1. Kids with Ds can be just as sweet and unsweet as anyone else. .. they can be fun and they can be horrible. I think I know the center you are referring to and they are awesome! Very friendly!

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