Just read an amazing article entitled "Isolating a Child with Disabilities Can do Lifelong Damage". To read, click here.
The end of the article is what most struck a chord in me. I count myself lucky that Ciaran and Shay live in this day and age where children with special needs are more accepted and embraced. That being said, this in no way takes away from my fear and anxieties that they will be defined by their disabilities or their equipment now and in the future or that they may be socially isolated by others because of their disabilities.
The more I think and worry about it, the more I realize what happy and inspiring little souls Ciaran and Shay are. Their attitudes towards their challenges make me want to be a better and more determined person on a daily basis. Their love for life and learning is contagious. How then could others isolate them? I am learning that isolation is a result of "ignorance". The "ignorant" children and parents are not ignorant in the negative sense of the word. They just don't know perhaps how to interact with someone that is different. I genuinely think that the isolation occurs sometimes for this reason more than any other. Looking back on my own life, I can remember a number of peers/colleagues that I didn't interact with as much as I could because I didn't want them to feel different or I didn't want them to think I pitied them. Looking back, I was so in the wrong. In trying to be empathetic, I was actually isolating.... Because I was not exposed to children like Ciaran and Shay when I was a child, I never got the lesson that individuals like this were actually exactly like me - in nearly every sense of the word.
So a big job in the upcoming months, years, decades is to help others realize how normal kids with special needs are. They really are just like any other kid. They have more obvious struggles than most - but they don't necessarily have more - their struggles are just more evident to the human eye.
At the end of the day, my number one priority is that Ciaran and Shay remain happy, go lucky, confident and determined little things who always strive to be the very best they can be. As the article outlined, children with disabilities are far from weak - Ciaran and Shay are actually two of the strongest people I have ever met in my lifetime. I often wish that I could be a little bit more like them. I have worked with children with special needs for over fifteen years now - I have always been empathetic and compassionate but I can say wholeheartedly - I had NO idea what an incredible journey each of the kids had been on to have gotten them to the place they were at, at that moment in time. Perspective.
I think I could go on and on. But I won't. I will finish in saying - Ciaran and Shay, I hope that you continue to shine so brightly. I am so proud of both of you and am so in awe of you.