You might not believe this, but I’m a talker. I talk a lot, to a lot of people. Last weekend, I struck up a conversation with a woman sitting next to me at a sporting event; and I’m still thinking about that conversation. She was a nurse. When I told her that I was a speech language pathologist, she commented “Oh, I could never work with ‘kids like that’”. What? “Kids like that”? What did she mean? I think she meant it as a compliment to me, but I must have looked at her funny, because she got up to use the bathroom and didn’t come back. I’ve been thinking about what I wish I would have said to her. I wish I would have said in an honest, non-judgmental, teaching kind of way, that “kids like that” are just regular kids. They have mothers and fathers who love them. They eat, play, cry, smile, laugh, sleep, and love. They roll over, crawl, cruise and walk, as they are able. They learn to communicate their wants and needs and play and interact with those around them. “Kids like that” might learn to do these skills differently than other kids, but they’re just as purposeful and just as meaningful.
I think the woman meant to say that she was uncomfortable with people who are different than she is; people who require special needs. But isn’t that every single person? Isn’t each of us different from another, and require our own set of special needs? I have a child who has a disorder that requires me to make different food for him…I also have a perfectly healthy child who is such a picky eater that I’m often making a PB&J sandwich for him at suppertime. What’s the difference? We’re all “…like that” in one capacity or another. “Kids like that” might walk, talk, look or act differently than some other kids, but so what? Sometimes I walk, talk, look, and act differently than the people surrounding me.
Maybe “kids like that” are really intended to teach the rest of us about respect and acceptance. I don’t know anyone who has a physical or mental difference that sits and judges others the way that they are judged! Everyone is different. Everyone has special needs. Everyone is worthy of love, acceptance and a fulfilling life. If we see the person behind all those differences, and get to know that person, we might meet a new friend. And, if we aren’t able to see that person, then maybe we don’t deserve that friendship anyway. It’s simple, we’re all “like that”. This post was written by Speech Language Pathologist Margaret Domnick, read her staff profile here.