It’s that time of the year when students and their parents celebrate graduations, awards, and other opportunities for recognition. It seems so simple to walk across the stage, shake a few hands, and receive your award. And to many people, it truly is that simple. However, for others, it can be a complicated and monumental task.
Our daughter Danielle, who has autism, is one of the people who doesn’t find this quite so easy. For starters, ceremonies such as these tend to be very crowded. Many people with special needs find large crowds to be frightening and overwhelming. Also, it’s complicated. You have to stand in line quietly, often go up a set of steps, wait for your name to be called, walk across the stage, shake hands and acknowledge the teachers, principals, or others that are there. Finally you take your award and return to your seat. That is a long list of things to do and many people with special needs can get confused.
When we heard that Danielle would be receiving an award at her school, of course we were excited, but also fearful. The chances of Danielle completing all the steps she needed independently were very low. On the other hand we knew that if she were provided with the proper supports she could be successful. Danielle has been fortunate to have teachers and aides who care about her and help her learn many things that she would be unable to do otherwise.
Some of the supports they put in place at the award ceremony included standing with her in line, keeping her interested and focused, and gesturing for her to walk where she was supposed to go — at the correct time. They practiced the whole thing including how to do a proper handshake well before the ceremony took place so she would not appear awkward.
We were so proud watching Danielle receiving her award and doing it with grace and charm. Everything went off the way it was supposed to thanks to the help and support she was given.
Copyright 2019 David and Mercedes Rizzo