I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou.
Sometimes, people make the mistake of thinking that people with autism can not feel. That is so far from the truth, although they find it difficult to express those emotions in a way that we, the community of those who don't have autism, can easily understand.
When you grow up different, many of your interactions with others are negative. You may grow up believing that you are not worthy of love. For those people, the special people who make them feel good have special places in their hearts.
Since moving to the area where we live in upstate New York last year, my brother in law, "Bil", has undergone many changes in his life. It has been hard for him, but "Bil", who has autism, doesn't show much of it externally.
For the past year, "Bil" has been able to participate in a day program two or three times a week. They transport him to and from, and he can play word games, exercise, color (adult coloring), and enjoy lunch.
Recently, the program had a holiday open house. "Bil" came with my husband, me, and my mother in law, "Bil"'s mother.
We were greeted by one of the directors. "Bil!", she exclaimed, "it is so good to see you. Thank you for coming!" She turned to us, smiling.
"Bil is one of our favorites here; we are so happy to see him. We are happy he comes to our program. We enjoy him being here."
I looked at "Bil" His face could have lit up the room. It may be a cliche, but now I know where the expression comes from. I have known him for over 40 years, but I have never seen that kind of smile on his face.
Maybe that director says that to all the people who come. Many are elderly, all have some kind of medical or developmental issue. But it didn't matter. "Bil" knows he is valued, that he has a place where they can't wait to see him come off the bus and walk in the door.
"Bil" will never forget how that director makes him feel. And neither will we. From his school days, and beyond, my mother in law received so much negative feedback, as do the parents of many with autism.
I wonder how many times she's been told "we like your son, we want him to be here."
None of us will forget that evening, and the power of a few words. That director truly is leaving a legacy of love with those she works with.
Linking with #FridayReflections.