Some of the most loving people I have ever seen are the parents and caregivers in waiting rooms of speech pathologists, occupational therapists, play therapists, physical therapists, and almost any place that works with children who have disabilities. Waiting can be very challenging for these children. Sometimes the kids scream, cry, throw toys, have tantrums, or act aggressively. Having waited in these rooms as the grandparent of twins with special needs for many years, I have witnessed countless acts of kindness, patience, empathy, and love.
Some of the most loving people I have ever seen are the parents and caregivers in waiting rooms of speech pathologists, occupational therapists, play therapists, physical therapists, and almost any place that works with children who have disabilities.
I have watched adults sing or read stories to kids to keep them calm. I have witnessed tender moments filled with lots of hugging for some and calm words of endearment for others who don’t want to be touched. I have held the door for people juggling walkers, wheelchairs, and wiggling younger siblings. I have seen people with their own challenges to manage offer to help others with theirs. I have smiled to see parents glow with pride when the therapist emerges at the end of a session to share even the smallest kernel of positive news.
The National Center for Learning Disabilities once ran a contest for parents, asking them to submit their stories in just six words. They received nearly 2,000 entries. Here are just a few:
- He succeeds when given the chance
- She sees life in amazing ways
- Two autistic boys, twice the love
- Not a puzzle piece, a person
- Hope today, fear and worry tomorrow
- We will always celebrate little miracles
- Our strengths, not weaknesses, define us
- Parent: motivator, advocate, cheerleader, “squeaky wheel”
- We have the courage to believe
- Our differences make us all unique
The last one is one of the important things those of us who share waiting rooms learn. Unique. Different. And yet valued and accepted. When one of my granddaughters was three, we often sat together on the floor of a waiting room the size of a closet while her big sister went to speech therapy. I would never trade those precious moments we spent together. Sometimes we colored, drew, played cards, or read books. Other times the therapist loaned us little animals and she created elaborate stories with them. The other adults who shared this tiny space with us were awesome. They always had something nice to say about both of my granddaughters as they waited with and for their own children.
I especially remember a mother of two boys with autism, one of whom was a teenager. While they waited for his younger brother, she worked very hard to engage the older boy, who would sometimes make loud sounds. With everything that was on her plate, the mother worried that he was frightening my young granddaughter. To the contrary, he was teaching her a valuable life lesson. Like most children her age, my granddaughter noticed the boy was different but had no negative association to his behavior. Seeing him receive love and attention from his mother and being able to talk about his behavior in a matter of fact manner helped her develop empathy. She learned that, even if he yelled and made strange sounds, he was someone worthy of love and respect. Years later, as a seven-year-old, she wrote this in response to Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech:
“My dream for the future of the world: I wish people with disabilitys [sic] could do things we can do. I wish it in my heart because my sisters have disabiltys and I love them with my heart. Having that would be a lot to me. I wish, I wish. People with disabilitys can’t make friends easily. I want to fix that and talking easily. I wish, I hope, I have a place in my heart for it.”
My young granddaughter learned a lot about what really matters in that tiny waiting room. And so did I. For me, the six words that best describe those parents and caregivers in waiting rooms are, “We shall travel this road together.” And if I had to choose just one word, it would be love.
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.