Today was the first session for my service to finally initiate our class sessions with the people at the DSA (Down Syndrome Association). After many in-class sessions of planning, we had a plan to introduce and acquaintance ourselves to the people and to get to know them as well! After that, we’d start the fun bit: singing.
Now, I’m not a singer. Nor have I ever dealt with people of special needs, as ignorant as it may seem, I was never given the opportunity to. So of course I was excited! But also nervous, one of my biggest fears was that I wouldn’t know how to deal with them or that I’d come off as rude. I decided to put that all aside and focus on my main goal: to befriend one person and come out having a better understanding of people with down syndrome.
As we entered the centre, we were warmly greeted by one of the students of the association! His name was Allen. He was a student at the DSA since he was “very little” and seemed to know everyone around. Despite some misunderstandings, I felt like Allen was genuinely happy to see us, which is really nice! Before getting into a circle, I managed to catch some small talk with some of the other students. I noticed some of them were much more talkative than others which actually surprised me in a good way. If anything, they talked more than me!
Another interaction that made me think was when I saw two students doing a type of handshake, y’know, the kind of handshake that are special only to specific friends. Kinda like a secret handshake. Seeing them have such an interaction made me think that just because they have a disability, that doesn’t stop them from being just like us. I feel like people stereotype other people with a mental disability as someone who doesn’t ‘understand’ the norm. Only to a certain extent is that true, but it’s important to remember they are just as capable as us in doing anything.
My partner that day was Micheal. Even though I managed to fulfil my goal of being able to come out with an insight of people with down syndrome, I didn’t interact with Micheal as much as I wanted to. I felt as if I was too quiet and didn’t quite initiate enough, and that left me fairly disappointed.
I got out of the centre feeling somewhat surprised, pleased, but also let down. I was pleasantly surprised that the people at the DSA were very accommodating towards us and really treated us as friends! I also managed to get an experience of working with people with down syndrome (I’ve always wanted to work with people with special needs!) But I was also let down because I did not manage to really get to know any of the students. I told myself the next time I come back, I would get to know Micheal –or any of the students- more. Talk to them, ask them about their day, or anything really. But I was definitely happy with our first visit to the DSA.