Yesterday we had a “Yes Day”. It was what Noah really wanted for this birthday present! For anybody who doesn’t know, a “Yes Day” is an entire day where Mom has to say yes to everything. His sister is aware that despite our lack of favouritism, there is no way she would have been allowed a yes day for her 11th birthday, she agreed immediately with a laugh, we all know we would have been completely broke and worn out by the end of it!
But Noah’s idea of a perfect day doesn’t involve loads of money or stacks of presents and treats. Before agreeing, I quizzed him about the things he might hope for on his Yes day. He wanted to be allowed have his breakfast in front of the TV, to buy a new DVD and to have pizza for dinner : ) I reckoned we could stretch to all that so I agreed and yesterday was the day!
The adventure started with the bus journey in to the city. When we arrived at the bus stop we checked the App and we only had three minutes to wait! This news resulted in a happy dance until the bus arrived. The dance was followed by the excitement of paying for his own ticket and then the ultimate joy as the front seat on the upper deck was free. It was shaping up to be a good day!
We laughed and chattered as we skipped along and he decided what shops in the city he wanted to visit. He settled on Golden Discs, Eason’s, TK Maxx and Dealz : ) I was surprised Smyths Toys wasn’t on the list so when I asked him about it, he said he doesn’t want to go to Smyths as he already got toys for Christmas!
After skipping around to all the desired shops, he gathered a loot consisting of a Peter Rabbit 2 DVD, a Roald Dahl book, a multi pack of Skittles, a bottle of Lucozade and a new rubber for school. The highlight of the afternoon was then of course a pizza date with Mum in Luigi Malone’s. Noah was absolutely thrilled and I loved every moment of it. I should add that Noah does not always enjoy trips to town and given the choice, he would often want to stay home but this day was about him, a chance to have my full attention and only go where he wanted to go!
I noticed, like I always do, as we wandered along how people look at us. I have rarely experienced anything other than kindness and a sense of awe when I am out with Noah and today was no different. His personality and light is infectious. He always gets heartwarming smiles from people, boys greet him in the street all the time as they recognise him from the school yard. Older teenagers are just kind to him, high five him in the middle of a store or politely move out of his way as he dances through Golden Discs. They might say “sorry bud” as they move out of his way or “hey bro” in a type of comradery style! Cashiers love when he excitedly approaches the till to proudly pay for his goods by himself. There’s always a little chat as he gathers the change. As we sat at our table in Luigi Malones, laughing and chatting through dinner, I could see families notice us, families who’s own children were distracted with iPad’s or phone screens and there is often a sense of surprise that we could be so relaxed or happy. I am always so proud to be out with my exceptional young man.
It can be difficult sometimes not to get disillusioned with this paradox of a world we live in. The fact is that despite this sense of interest and surprise or delight when people encounter Noah, we are still often confronted with the fact that our system sees him as the outsider, the one who doesn’t quite fit in. We talk about inclusion all the time but we are still far away from it being an every day reality.
As I notice people observing and responding to Noah in such a positive way, I long for a community where everybody could be educated together, where people with intellectual disabilities can have an opportunity to work or contribute to society in a meaningful way, where people don’t have to fight so hard for the support they need.
In a world where Noah is often viewed as the square peg, the one playing catch up, the one who has more to learn then the rest of us, I am often led to question whether we have it all backwards? Who really has the most to learn, Noah from the world or the world from Noah?