Children deserve a place, regardless of ability, to laugh, love, be loved, and grow. This, I believe.
For the past eight months, I have worked with young toddlers in a daycare on campus. Each semester, some new kiddos are brought into our classroom so we see a constant sea of new faces. This semester, two of the new kids have disabilities. One little girl has Down Syndrome, who I will call Krista, and the other little girl will likely be diagnosed with Autism, who I will call Bella. Before working with these two girls, I had never had the chance to interact with children with disabilities before on any level so it was incredibly new for me.
When the semester began, Bella often played on her own and didn’t make eye contact even when my eyes were right there for her to look at. Getting her attention, much less holding it, and figuring out what she wanted when she wasn’t happy was difficult and that became frustrating to me, until I started singing to her. Bella loves to sing and be sung to. As soon as I start singing, she looks into my eyes and the biggest grin comes across her face even if she was crying just a second before. Knowing that she struggles with this, it melts my heart every single time. I sing song after song to Bella, and she continues to look at me, with a grin from ear to ear, and we love the power of song together.
Now, a month and a half later, Bella will tell me what sound an animal makes when I prompt her, use simple sign language, and even occasionally make eye contact with me even when I’m not singing. I have seen the progress that Bella has made in such a short amount of time, and it warms my heart to know I played a part in it. My experience with Bella has shown me that if I actively choose to laugh with and love every child that is in my classroom, then I can make a positive difference in a child’s life someday or maybe even today.
All of the toddlers that I work with hold an incredibly special place in my heart and have shown me what it really means to love someone like they are my own. All of these kiddos deserve the world, and I believe that through showing them it’s okay to laugh, love, be loved, and grow with me that it’s at their fingertips.