Darian’s story is about how Darian and his mother taught me an important lesson. That everyone should be given the opportunity to be celebrated.
For many years, I worked with children and their families. And, for many years with autistic children. Over 20 years ago, I piloted a school readiness group with a colleague. We were inspired to create this group. Many of the children we helped with were going off to school. Unfortunately, they lacked the skills they would likely need for a successful start to Kindergarten.
This is Darian’s story
Darian was one of the children in our very first group. Although he attended daycare, the morning group was his first experience with a more structured setting. Accordingly, we organized our pre-school group to mimic some aspects of Kindergarten. Also, we prepared activities for the children to practice some specific skills. This included fine motor-skills, gross-motor skills, and sensory-motor skills.
On the last morning of our pre-school group, I was at an office supply store picking up printer-ink. By chance (maybe some sort of divine intervention or the universe’s alignment) I happened to walk down the aisle that had printed certificates. Now, this was decades ago before there was much available online in digital format. Almost as an afterthought, I picked up certificates for our group. However, we had not discussed handing anything out to the children on the last day. It was our first such group. Let me tell you, we learned as much as the children in it!
Subsequently, and hurriedly before the group, we prepared the certificates for each of the children.
Then, at the end of the group, when the parents came to collect their children, we handed out the certificates. I wish I could say we made more of a ceremony of it. But, it was rather simply done.
This is why I share Darian’s story
I will always remember the look on Darian’s mother’s face when he received his certificate. His moment of graduation from our little group. Always.
It was one of those “a-ha” moments. A moment that change you as a person.
Darian’s mom, Anna was very surprised and delighted. She was tearful too. Ultimately, she was proud. Just proud.
It was only then I realized the meaning of this little certificate. The one we delivered as an afterthought. It meant everything in the world to Darian’s mom.
This certificate was likely the first Darian had received in his five short years to date.
Here is the power of celebration
With autism, many of the interactions with professionals, caregivers, therapists, and educators were focused on the challenges that Darian experienced. We identify what is most difficult in his day with parents. In therapy, we work on that.
We had forgotten to give attention to everything Darian had learned. Moreover to acknowledge what he had also achieved. Finally, we had forgotten to celebrate Darian.
Therefore, in this simple certificate, we acknowledged Darian. We recognized his achievement. We celebrated him. Moreover, in writing. And importantly, in front of other people. Then we shared it with the person that loved him best. We shared with his mom.
Darian struggled with so many of the difficulties that young children with autism have. His language was limited. He was what we call a picky eater. Mostly, he ate very few foods. Many of his fine and gross motor skills were delayed. He had difficulty with his daily routine. Furthermore, any sort of change was a challenge.
On the other hand, Darian was also easy to engage with toys. I brought toys to his house for one-on-one therapy. He loved to help me unpack my big therapy suitcase. We worked a lot on his fine motor skills. Moreover, he worked hard! Also, he loved to try out new toys. Admittedly, he had his favorites (superheroes).
Anna was a young mom with two small children. She was like a sponge trying to soak up anything we therapists said. She was lovely and kind. In addition, worried about his future. Mostly trying to get through every day with a young family. And like most families, not enough help.
Sensory-Friendly Champion Certificate
I realized on that day that I had untapped power. One previously unbeknownst to me. I could celebrate people. I should celebrate and acknowledge other people. Also, that had incredible meaning to that one person. But also incredibly to the people around them. The celebration of success was important. Moreover, it was powerful. People and their work should always be given attention and acknowledged. Who knows? It might be the first time they’ve been told they are doing something good.
Therefore, here is the takeaway. I have created a Sensory-Friendly-Champion-Certificate. Free to download and free to use. No email sign-up necessary. You can use it to celebrate people. You can use it to celebrate businesses or organizations. Let people know they are doing sensory-friendly good.
Becoming sensory-friendly is an achievement. Many people around the world have taken up the cause. Just like Darian, they deserve a celebration for their hard work. They deserve to be acknowledged.
Make Darian’s story powerful in your life too. If you attend an event or location that is sensory-friendly, celebrate it!
Is there a person, group, or organization that helps places or experiences become sensory-friendly? Then, acknowledge them!
Click on the link and download the Sensory-Friendly-Champion-Certificate.
Fill it out. Hand them out. Share them.
Celebrate what is sensory-friendly in the world.
*names and a few details are changed to respect confidentiality.
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