Recently, Chloe and Jason celebrated their first Valentine‘s Day as a married couple. However, Valentine’s Day almost didn’t occur in their first year of marriage. Late that afternoon, Chloe’s mom stopped by their apartment to chat and asked, “What are you both doing for Valentines Day?” They said they didn’t have any plans and were trying to “figure out their schedule.” As she listened, she could tell they wanted and needed help to create a memorable day. They were confused with their work schedules, when to run errands for each other, and what to budget for their gifts and dinner. After sitting down with Chloe and Jason for 15 minutes, and giving a little bit of coaching, they planned their work schedule, figured out how to ask to get off work a little early, and when they could pick up their gifts for each other via Uber. Then, they decided what restaurant they wanted to visit.
After that, Chloe and Jason were all smiles and kisses. They talked about their plan to each other like they were the only people in the room.
And Chloe’s mom didn’t mind at all.
Looking at Chloe’s life with Down syndrome, I can tell you many ways my family has advocated for her to accomplish her big dreams. As I look at her life, though, I realize the power of advocacy in the small things. Advocacy doesn’t always look like helping someone with special needs get married or speaking on their behalf before Congress, while those things are very needed. Advocacy can sometimes be disguised in the small acts of service for someone who has special needs.
Advocacy, in my opinion, is seeing an obstacle in a person’s life and helping them create a bridge over it. It can look like asking them questions. In this case, it was, “what are you doing for Valentine’s Day”? Other times, it can be noticing something is amiss and asking how are you really doing? It can be giving them a ride to a get-together or helping them figure out the Uber app. Sometimes it is encouraging them and their families.
Individuals with learning differences need advocates – and I am not only talking about speakers, therapists, or presidents of nonprofits. I am talking about the greater part of the population – you,
me, a neighbor, friend, cashier, parent, business owner, or a student! Looking at Chloe’s life, I genuinely believe the “small” and “insignificant” things others did for her life, gave birth to some of her greatest blessings.
Happy Valentine’s Day Week!
P.S. Chloe’s and Jason’s Valentine’s day by themselves went off without a hitch <3