Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Secret Club

A continuation of the zoo post from the other day:

When we got to the zoo on Sunday, we saw that there was a table set up for Autism Speaks and the place was crazy crowded.  Apparently, it was Zoos Go Blue across the country.  (I'll admit.  My first thought had to do with the fact that it was Sunday and I wasn't at work and didn't want to see any of my students.)

As the day went on, we saw tons of kids with different disabilities.  I tend to notice kids in general but I definitely notice kids with disabilities.  I always want to stop and talk to their families and encourage them.  Taking your child into multiple settings and giving them as many life experiences as possible is one of the best things you can do for any child.

I noticed an interesting phenomenon as the day wore on.  Every child or adult that we passed with Down syndrome stared at Sara.  Most of the time when I look at her, I just see a beautiful little girl.  I don't see the Down syndrome characteristics.  Maybe they are immediately apparent to others but I just don't see them most of the time.  One young man stared and waved when she had her sunglasses on.  (This really surprised me.  How can he tell if he can't see her eyes?)  Somehow, they all just know.  They are part of a special club and they instantly recognize the other members.

When Katie did Sara's photo shoot, her daughter and Sara instantly bonded.  Katie said that Grace is usually upset when people come to get photos done.  That was not the case with us.  Grace and I played while Sara took pics.  Then Grace and Sara took some beautiful photos together.  They'd never met but they became immediate friends.

Years ago, I took my students to the flagship McDonalds restaurant in the western suburbs.  There was a young woman working there.  I think she was cleaning tables or sweeping the floor or something.  One of my students came up to me very excited and said:  "She's just like me."  Yep.  The both had Down syndrome.

I also love the camaraderie that comes from other moms.   I first experienced it in Colombia when we ran into a young woman with Down syndrome and her mom in the market.  Her mom gave me a nod and a smile that let me know I'm in my own secret club now.  I experienced the same thing at the zoo last week.  The kids have their club but so do the parents.

The other day, Sara and I got to visit the site of the new Gigi's Playhouse that is opening in Oak Forest in the fall.  I am facebook friends with the woman who is starting it but I haven't actually met her.  We stopped by to drop off some donations and I instantly felt at home.  Sara was instantly embraced and so was I.  I can't wait for the center to actually open!  Until then, I'll enjoy the waves, nods, and smiles of the secret clubs Sara and I belong to.

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