Special Dreams For Special Needs Special Needs For Special Dreams
One of those evenings when I was running I ended up daydreaming (I know this does not really add up :-) ), Third Eye Blind was spitting Everything Is Easy in my ears and for some reasons I remembered that boy who was clapping his hands and encouraging the runners at a race I had entered the previous week end. He gave me a great boost of energy with his hi five while simultaneously and passionately screaming encouragements to anybody who was wearing a pair of runners. Like any other boy he was visibly excited to watch the Wings For Life race with its helicopters and Motorbike TV crews, the only difference maybe was that this boy had down syndrome.
This brief encounter got me thinking and I quickly realized very little I knew about Down syndrome in particular and Autism in general, what was going on in this beautiful mind, I went thru a bunch of silly questions in my head such as does he see the horizon vertical, does he feel sadness or anxiety, does he dream and if he does what are his dreams? I was overwhelmed (and a little bit ashamed) by how little or inexistent my comprehension of autism and Down syndrome was. When I decided to write about it, it was clear to me that I was in unchartered territory.
However if somebody like me who is not exposed directly to autism is curious enough maybe this could encourage others to make an effort too, subsequently this is how I discovered and understood Down Syndrome does not necessarily means Autism and that the two conditions are sometimes linked together but in essence they are very different. The majority of children with Down syndrome are not necessarily showing the deficits in social and emotional understanding that are shown by the autistic children.
Autism is what’s known as a ‘developmental disability’ – one that affects approximately one in a hundred people. It is a spectrum condition which means it can differ a lot from person to person. The excellent site Ambitious About Autism has a great video about busting myths about Autism. If you are reading this and have skipped the video please go back to it I can assure you it is well worth it.
What now then? After all they have dreams too and their dreams are like yours or mine they are wicked, mad, not making sense at times but altogether and fearfully very normal they are about anything from having a loving relationship, academic or sport success, having a family and conduct a happy life fulfilled with drive, talent, appetite and passion. Maybe we should assume that the way they will get to attain their dreams is a bit more tortuous at times and may potentially require special attention therefore they have special needs.
So how do we do that? Or maybe should I say how will they do that? The first step in my opinion is to recognize and respect that it is their dreams and that we should not be misguided by some form of guilt, however it is obvious we need to assist them a bit on the way. As I was trying to get more familiar with the various challenges linked to autism I read a great blog from Melina Chavarria about her son’s dream to travel to space. Past the complexity aspect that any family situation brings in the equation, she mentions the ups and downs of how easy or difficult it is to be integrating general or specific programs for a child on the autism spectrum. In fine like many things in modern society it does require funds to address financial gaps helping those programs to be viable and more critically remain sustainable.
I don’t know if where you live the government provide specific policies or funds but here in Ireland the government agencies seems to provide the bare minimum which is leaving numerous individuals and organizations to self-fund programs of all sorts. Many front liners such as The Special Olympics organization in Ireland are doing a fantastic job to push the boundaries and influence policies, same for Autism Ireland or Irish Autism Action but they need help and support.
We have a choice I suppose. We leave it to the tireless fighters or we act, the first step is probably to talk about it and if it is not a national conversation we can probably all do something within our local ecosystem. We all work for companies small or big, some of us are parents and maybe we can get traction and indirectly influence policies, let’s just talk about autism in the workplace. For example and while I very rarely and publicly endorse the company I work for I am encouraged to see Microsoft launching a program to hire full time employees with Autism.
I kind of realize this article is probably not providing any authoritative view point on a complex issue but I am glad I undertook the journey and gave it a shot. I am no expert in this field but I guess if many more of us were to make a step in the same direction we would learn more and understand better. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye on what is a very difficult and sensitive issue but with a greater mobilization and awareness there is no reason why special needs kids would not have the opportunity to turn their dreams in to something very
Know More or Donate
Special Olympics Ireland
Irish Autism Action
Autism Speaks. Org
Ambitious About Autism. Org
Sweet Dream by Oh Boy Agency
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