On Sundays Scott and I take turns, one goes to church while the other takes Annie to bible school. It's been a while since I've taken Annie because it seems that on my turns Annie is not feeling well enough to go. Today we were able to make it which was awesome because I almost forgot how amazing these kids are.
Here's the scene, Annie and I roll into bible school, we are 10 minutes late (as usual) and the kids are already sitting and listening to the lesson. I take Annie out of her stroller and walk her over to the carpet, we sit in the back. Almost instantly I see some the girls start to inch and scoot their way closer to Annie. One gets close enough to grab Annie's hand and holds it throughout most of the lesson. The teacher is giving a lesson on how God is invisible but He can still be seen through the things that He has made and the way that we act towards each other. I see that lesson come to life right before my eyes.
Floor time is over, time to sit at the table and color. 2 girls ask to sit next to Annie. I grab 2 crayons and ask Annie "which color do you want to use?" Annie chooses purple with eye gaze. I then put the crayon in her hand, hold it closed and move her hand around the paper so she can "color". A minute later Annie's friend grabs 2 crayons out of the crayon box, holds them up and says "Annie do you want to choose another color?" The little girl looks at me and says "She just choosed blue", then proceeds to put the crayon in Annie's hand, hold it closed and move her hand around the paper so that Annie could "color". The friend on the other side says "I'll write Annie's name on her paper" she writes "Annie" "I love you" with a heart. The girls start talking about reading (typical kids are starting to learn to read in kindergarten, Annie is still learning to communicate so we haven't spent any time on learning to read just yet). I told the girls how cool they were that they could read, one little girl said "Can Annie read?" I said, "well, lets see", we held up 2 parts of the project they were working on - one said "invisible" and the other said "seen" I asked Annie which one said "seen", the little girls watched Annie's eyes and said "oh yah, she can read, she just read 'seen' ".
Time for snack. Annie brings her own gluten free snack and sippy cup. I start to feed Annie a couple pieces of dry cereal. One of Annie's friends gets up, grabs her sippy cup and holds it to Annie's mouth. Annie drinks... a lot. The little girl looks at me and said "she looked thirsty". There's a book on the table that the kids could look at with 3-D glasses. I tried to put the glasses on her but Annie's not having it. I tried 3 or 4 times and there was no way she was going to keep those things on. Her friend grabbed the book and the glasses, she held them both up and said "Annie you don't have to wear the glasses, just look through them".
These kids are amazing. Annie can't talk or play with these kids but they are still friends with her. These kids have not been trained in how to take care of a person with special needs but they see a need and step up to fulfill it without even being asked. They have not spent years in school learning augmentitive communication but they are able to understand and perform eye gaze communication. They are not trained in modifying lesson plans but they find ways to include Annie in all their activities. These children do not need to see multiple trials or look at test scores to determine if someone is smart, they assume competence. Children have empathy, understanding and a belief in every person that I think most of us start to loose as we become "educated" grown ups. Adults need proof, children just believe.
Today I saw amazing things from 2 particular girls but the story is the same whenever Annie is around her peers. Boys and girls her same age, some a little older some a little younger, all with the same amount of compassion and understanding. Of course we get stares and comments but typically the stares and comments are out of curriosity, they just want to know why she can't walk, why she wears those arm thingy's, why she uses a pacifier when she's 6. We answer their questions, they understand and Annie becomes instantly included. One little boy a few years ago was very curious about Annie, he stared A LOT, and then got up the nerve to start asking me questions. After I answered his questions he became such a good friend to Annie, he would help her eye gaze at which stories she wanted to read, he would sit by her and wanted to help her walk. The funny thing was that the reverse happened and Annie became a good friend to HIM. This little boy used to be a sort of "trouble maker" in class, he would get rough with some kids and was very antsy and didn't like to sit still. Once he met Annie his behavior changed in class, he was so involved with helping her that he didn't have time to rough house any of the other kids or cause a commotion. They helped each other "be their best selves" (a quote from one of our children's books about friendship).