Hand-in-Hand Program

I started volunteering at a new program at my friend’s synagogue. It is called Hand-in-Hand.

Hand-in-Hand matches someone with autism with someone like me.  Once a week we get together and play, read books or just hang out.  The purpose of the program is so the child with autism can work on social skills and build relationships.  Children with autism have a hard time developing social skills and often are in self-contained classroom without the chance to interact with kids who don’t have autism. This program brings all types of kids together to build friendships.

I am paired with a little boy who is one of the sweetest people I have ever met.  He loves coloring and playing with play-doh.   We have a lot fun.  I love seeing that smile on his face when I walk in to play with him. It is truly a magical feeling.

Everyone says the program is to help the kids who have autism.  But I know how much it helps everyone else involved.  I think it helps the kids without autism the most.  The Executive Director of CLF, Jen, has a son (Peter) who has autism.  So autism is something I have always known.  I don’t care whether someone has a disability or not when it comes to friendship.  I know how little the disability actually has to do with the person inside.  What I have learned from Peter and my Hand-in-Hand match is something you can’t learn from a book.  I feel lucky to be a part of this program.

Which makes me think of a new topic that makes me really upset.  If you have been around me when someone uses “retard” as a slang word, then you know what I am talking about.   I am not usually a confrontational person but this gets me going.

So many people use the word “retarded” in the wrong context and it infuriates me.  Retarded is medical diagnosis.  It is a way to classify people with an IQ less than 70 and impaired adaptive skills.  It is not funny.  It is not okay to use this medical diagnosis to insult someone.   It is wrong.

Everyone is different. Just because someone is different from you does not mean you can make fun of them.  Not for any reason, especially medical reasons.  That is why I love another organization called Spread the Word to End the Word.  They strive to end all use to the r-word because most people do not realize how hurtful it is.  I think their public service announcements are great.  I would love to have Kid’s Corner partner with them on spreading the word.

After reading this blog, I hope you have more compassion for people who are different because everyone is a little different and unique.  I hope all of you stop using the r-word.  I have never in my life used the r-word in the wrong context and I will never do so.


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