At my initial interview with the Ann Sullivan Center, I said I loved kids and had background knowledge of building communication skills and language. So my YAV volunteer placement started in the 3-5-year-old kid’s class. I became the designated nose-wiper, child-chaser, and diaper-changer… and all of my “background knowledge” went right out the window. I had very little experience with this! Of course the kids were adorable, but they could be little monsters when they wanted to be. In my first two months, I was scratched, bitten, had my hair pulled, and was peed on. And because big reactions can “cause an escalation of negative behaviors”, I had to get bitten with a smile on my face! It was hard.
But my job description changed after the December holidays. All of the 500 kids that attend the school needed to have their hearing evaluated, and I was the one for the job. But if you don’t already know this, kids HATE having things put in their ears. I wore silly hats, made funny faces, and sang the Barney song a million times, but the kids still cried rivers. I prayed for patience. I also prayed for the right words and peace as I told the parents that their child, on top of everything else, might have hearing problems.
In June, I was finally finishing up the last of the evaluations. One day it was Leandro’s turn. He was in the class of 3-5-year-olds that I had helped out with earlier, and I was kind of dreading this evaluation. Leandro was one of the only kids in class who could talk, but he had an attitude when he didn’t want to do something, and he was a biter. So I steeled myself and brought him in for the evaluation. He immediately started crying and saying, “I don’t want to. I don’t want it. Please don’t make me!” I tried calming him and explaining what we were doing, all the while watching out for his teeth. Finally, I pushed the button, and he passed the test. When I told him we were all done, he looked at me with tears in his eyes, and said, “Thanks” and held out his arms for a hug. What child wants to hug a doctor after an evaluation? But I wasn’t a doctor; I was his teacher, and one of the first adults in his life that didn’t react when he bit them. I had made an impact on him. I know he made one on me.
My YAV year was in many ways like my experience at the Ann Sullivan Center. It was hard, but in also full of hugs and love, and the impact that it has made on my life has forever changed me.
We are packing today and flying home tonight. Please pray for our safe travels and many happy reunions!