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The life of a child is magical. It is almost unbelievable that something that starts with an egg and a sperm can grow into something so complex and full of so much potential. They are sacred.
I have worked with children for more than 15 years as a substitute paraeducator, instructional aide, and teacher in various California districts. These days have been some of the best days of my life. Every time I get a new child or a classroom full of children I feel as though life is giving me the best gifts a person can receive. My children have been all ages of special needs – physically, developmentally or emotionally challenged, or a combination of any of those things. But I use the word “challenged” instead of disabled because disabled suggest that a person is unable to do things, which is far from true, even in the most severe cases. With consistent assistance, the children CAN learn at some level.
In one of my classrooms as a paraeducator, I served as a one-on-one for a little boy who was autistic and nonverbal, and he had braces on his ankles and feet. He also had to have special liquid frequently to help with his digestion. Although he had these challenges, he was generally cheerful and seemed to have a good sense of his own abilities. The only area that was a challenge was when the children went outside for their exercise.
The braces made it difficult for him to walk very fast at all, and running seemed out of the question when the aides would play a sort of baseball with a big rubber ball and “bases” leading to the home plate. They would throw the ball and the children would run from base to base, trying to get a home run. The little boy I had charge of seemed to see this as a time to “watch” as the other children ran. When his turn came up, he would stand watching, but not try to move forward. This day I took his hand, held it tight, and encouraged him to keep going. We managed to get through all the bases, and at last made a home run. We had two more turns, and each time I held his hand tightly, encouraging him all the way.
Soon we were sitting in the grass resting as the game was over. I turned to him and told him “Wow! We made three home runs!” Suddenly he grabbed me around the neck with both arms and began to hug me until we both fell over. I knew it meant he was so happy because he sensed his victory.
I will never forget that day. As he got into the car and his dad began to drive him home, he reached out with both arms and threw kisses at me. I will always have a smile in my heart when I think of that child.