Up early, today I read stories to students at Benchmark Family Services in Watertown, NY. I sat down with little ones, ages 18 months to preschool, for a chance to meet and share some reading time. Benchmark is an Early Learning Center in Watertown that offers preschool, early intervention services, daycare and pediatric therapy.
Programs like this are special to me. First, I know how important they are to the families of children living with disabilities. More importantly, I know how important it is to integrate these students together. My brother never had a problem with his differences until he got separated from his "normal" peers, thus making him able to classify himself as "abnormal." He didn't like feeling different or that he was not worthy of other students' time. Also, growing up alongside a brother and sister with disabilities gave me a unique perspective, allowing me to see them as no more different than anyone else. At that at the end of the day they were still just kids. Sometimes you just had to listen harder or have patience. It's often hard to watch my peers - those who did not grow up around disabilities - try to figure out how to interact with someone who has differences. Benchmark is enabling all children to interact better, helping the community's future become stronger.
Thanks to all my new friends for sharing stories with me! A huge thank you to the staff at Benchmark for what you are bringing to the community.