I believe I will always be a student. With each new day, I have a new lesson to learn. My instructors come in various sizes and none is older than three years old. Some have a vocabulary of a twenty year old and others have not spoken a word in three years. Despite their age, size and disability, each one educates me weekly on the values and miracles of life.
I spent several years in college studying child development and working at various preschools. While working at one of the local colleges I began working with children with special needs. I loved this part of my job and was fortunate to find a career working with infants up to to the age of three. I have spent the past eighteen years visiting children in their homes and working with their families.
Ironically, I have the title of Infant Educator; however, it is really the children and the families that teach me. My first job was with a set of twins. Their foster mother was an experienced woman of twenty years in foster care. I was fortunate to have this woman work along side of me showing me the techniques she invented herself. When no one was around to tell her how to deal with a drug exposed baby, she figured out how to swaddle the tiny bundle and turn the lights down low to lessen the stimulation on the tiny overloaded body.
With experience come new challenges. In my fifth year of work, I was asked to design a program to work with disabled parents. I spent many months outlining a curriculum that I felt covered most of the areas need to teach parenting. Nevertheless, for some of the hardest questions I looked to the parents for answers. If you have ever tried to diaper a nine month old baby, you know this is difficult because they flip and try to crawl away, it can be frustrating, not to mention messy. The answer for this task came from a mom who was paralyzed on one side of her body. She showed me the “leg hold,” she originally asked me if I thought it was child abuse, it was ingenious. Placing a leg across the baby’s’ midsection, keeping his arms and hands away from the mess, and not allowing him to flip and roll. Fourteen years later, I still use her technique to show all my parents how to get through the menacing toddler diaper phase.
The most humbling lesson my young educators have taught me is that regardless what disability the world thinks they may have, they are a child first and are more like a typical child, than not. They may take a little longer to reach a milestone and they may not communicate using their voice, but if they are given a chance to be understood, they can show you how truly amazing they are. I leave work each day with this as my homework,
ready to return another day to learn and be amazed.