Before I worked at Maddi’s preschool, I didn’t have much experience with people who have disabilities. No one in my family, and none of my childhood friends had a disability. I started at the preschool working in a classroom that had children with a diagnosis and typical peers together. The kids who had a diagnosis needed some assistance, but did really well. Never having really been around people who have disabilities, I have to admit that some of the other kids made me really nervous. Some could not speak. Some displayed extreme behaviors. Some just cried for what seemed like a long time. I was worried that I wouldn’t know what to do if I ended up working in a different classroom. I worked in the “highest functioning” classroom for 10 months before I was switched to Maddi’s classroom. It was then that Maddi started teaching me one of the most valuable and life changing lessons I have learned so far. Just because someone doesn’t have the ability to speak (yet) doesn’t mean they don’t understand, and it certainly doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to say. It doesn’t mean they don’t know how to communicate. It just meant that I had to learn different ways to communicate. Maddi knows how to talk using some signs, and shaking her head yes or no. Her facial expressions are also one of my favorite ways to tell how Maddi is feeling. Her joy is easily seen by her smile and giggle. On the other hand, a scrunched up nose, squinted eyes, and a slightly open mouth means she probably isn’t a big fan of the activity, such as when she tried touching new textures, or when she saw a puppet. The second thing Maddi taught me is not to feel bad for myself. Maddi has been through so much in her short life so far, and she never complains. Doctors appointment after doctors appointment, being hooked to machines, having tests done, and having tubes and wires taped all over her little body. In the 6 months that I worked with Maddi, she had a surgery for her ears, adenoids, and had an emergency open heart surgery. A few days, or week(s) later, Maddi was back at school, smiling and happy. Although she had some days where she was completely worn out by the end, she just kept on doing what Maddi does, never crying, whining, or whimpering. The only way Maddi ever asked for any extra attention was she would get extra snuggly, which I was happy to take advantage of 🙂 Maddi has more strength and courage than most people I know. And she’s only 4. I hope that through this blog or in person, Maddi will continue to teach people who don’t know someone with a disability that even though these people may look a little different or sound a little different, on the inside they are just the same.
By: Jessica Crouse BS Education, Ed Tech 3