Caitlyn came to work with me on Thursday for Take Your Daughter to Work Day. I think it may actually be called Take your Child to Work Day now in order to be more politically correct?
I was curious to see how Caitlyn would respond to some of the children that I work with. While she has been exposed to children with disabilities since she was young, she hadn't been around them much in last few years. She does have a child with Down Syndrome in her class, but that is about the extent of her exposure these days. I knew that seeing some of my kids would be a very new experience for her.
The first school that I took her to, I had her in a room with a little boy who is 3 years old and nonverbal. He has never spoken a word and was recently diagnosed with autism. Caitlyn has never been around a child with autism, or a child who is nonverbal for that matter, so I wasn't sure how she was going to react. She really didn't interact much with this little boy. However, I don't think it was because of his limitations, but rather because of the age difference. There just isn't much that a 6 year old girl has in common with a 3 year old boy.
At the next school I took her to, there would be more children her age. In the classroom that we would be spending time in, there are 4 boys who have autism and one boy who has severe CP.
Caitlyn was immediately drawn to one of the little boys who is in second grade. She enjoyed playing on the floor with him with the blocks and the books. But she did notice that she had some trouble communicating with him. He is very soft spoken and often speaks off topic about things that he likes. None the less, she really enjoyed playing and interacting with him.
When I attempted to introduce her to the little boy with CP who is in a wheelchair, she backed off and said she didn't want to meet him. I was a little stunned by this to say the least. However, once he was out of his chair and on a mat on the floor, she warmed up some and ended up reading him a book and telling him he needed to listen to her when she would start acting like he wasn't paying attention! When I spoke to her about this later, she said that she was afraid of all of the wires on his chair (for his communication device) and she was worried that the wheels of his chair would roll over her toes.
After she said that, I thought those things were very plausible concerns for a 6 year old. Especially one that hasn't been exposed to wheelchairs. And really, if I were to get down to Caitlyn's height level, I can understand how all of those things could be concerning to her. Her head comes to about where the handles of the wheelchair are, and the wheels look much bigger from her point of view. What I am glad about though, is that I talked to her about it and helped her to understand that her fears/concerns were valid. As well as helped her to understand that while they were valid, I could help her to understand that those things were nothing to be afraid of.
All in all I think it was a good experience for her. I was proud of how much she actually took away from the experience. I have taken her to work in the past, but she was much too young to really understand the magnitude of what it was I did at work all day. When I came home on Friday, she asked me how each of the kids were doing by their names and how their day went. She was also excited because she got to stand up in class and tell her classmates what she did with me all day and about some of the kids that she met. So I know that she took something away from the experience. I think when I take her next year, I am going to have her complete an assignment of some sort ;)