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A Salute to Young Adults That Work w/ Special Needs Kids & Adults

A Salute to Young Adults That Work w/ Special Needs Kids & Adults

(originaly written & published on Novermber 16, 2018)

So this post is a salute to the people who work with our special needs kids.  Especially the young people.

This post has been bouncing around in my brain for months but I’ve been too busy or lazy to write it.

This post is about the young people who choose to work with our special needs kids. And how I am impressed by them, how I’m in awe of them, how I salute them.

And yes it’s about the teachers, of course big props go to the special needs teachers. The King’s had a lot of great teachers over the years. He’s got a great one now.
But this post isn’t really about them. Teachers are older and they knew what they want to do with their lives.  I’ll cover their awesomeness in a future blog post

This post is about all the young people who work with our special needs kids and adults, sometimes for little more than minimum wage, at music
therapy, swimming at the Y, in group home settings, etc.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time. Every Sunday when I take the king to special-needs swim the idea for this post pops back in my head.

The king has had a new swim instructor since September.

He’s probably 19,20 years old. And is he the greatest swim instructor for teaching stroke technique? No probably not…

But the whole 30 minutes that he has the king in the pool he is talking to him, he’s smiling at him, he’s looking at him under the water with his goggles on, and he’s laughing a lot.

Just a sweet kid.

Wifey went up to the guy that runs the program to pay this instructor a complement. And this guy is so used to hearing complaints that he immediately thought that’s what was coming. But wifey said, “nope, he just said he’s a sweetheart and I wanted you to know…”

And that made me realize that you only hear about people that work with special needs kids in the news when something really really bad happens or when the instructor somehow has some amazing breakthrough and the kids start speaking or walking something because of him/her.

And in the middle are the thousands of people who work with her kids but a daily basis, and don’t bring on miracles but just do their job really really well with a smile on their faces.

So, this post is about these people…

Once again, going back to the pool at the Y… every Sunday while the King is in his one on one swim lesson about 30 special needs kids ranging in age from 7 to 20 get in the pool for half an hour as part of their three hour “Sunday Fun Day” program. This is basically a three hour program that their parents send them to on Sunday mornings so they can have some socialization and so that mom and dad get a break.

And every Sunday I see these kids and I see the people who are working with them. And I see them in some pretty uncomfortable situations like in the locker room.

And some of these workers on the surface look like really really rough young adults. I don’t know how else to say it but they look like the type of people that you wouldn’t want to mess with.

Now what made these people decide to work in this environment? These jobs can’t be paying any better than McDonald’s or a fast food restaurant.

But here these rough looking young adults are, helping big special needs teenagers go to the bathroom, sometimes even wiping their butts.

And here they are in the locker room helping 17-year-old boys get dressed. And talking to them roughly, but appropriately,

“come on Allen no more showering it’s time to get in the pool”

“Bill, let’s go! No more sitting on the toilet bowl!”

People on Facebook are always complaining about this young generation about how self-centered they are but I just don’t see it. The young people we see in our circles couldn’t be nicer. And seem a lot more tolerance than the older generation.

I will readily admit that I wouldn’t have wanted to have a job like that when I was in my late teens early 20s.

I would’ve chosen the fast food restaurant over working in a special needs camp in a heartbeat!  I still probably would.

So who are these people?  And what makes them decide to do this work?

They could be like my niece & nephew.  They could have a special needs kid in their lives.  Maybe a brother, sister, cousin, etc.

My nephew worked at the special needs day camp that the king went to this summer.  And after one day he said incredulously, “some people just don’t know how to interact with these kids?  what is wrong with them?  it’s not that hard!”

I didn’t say it to him at the time, but I said to wifey later that night, “that’s cool.  he thinks all people should know what to do around these kids, but that’s just because he’s had the king around all his life.  but i wouldn’t know how to interact with those kind of kids when I was his age?”

And I know some of you are thinking “what about the volunteers?  there are some young adults that volunteer to work with our kids.”

Yes, many of them deserve a salute too, but I gotta admit I’m more impressed by the people who get paid poorly than I am with the volunteers who get paid nothing.  That’s because some volunteers are in it for college credit, or to hit some donation hours quota in their HS, or because it will look good on a college application.  In September you see a lot of fresh faced volunteers, but the people that are still there in December are in it for the right reasons.

But again, I’m more impressed with the people who choose to work with our kids, sometimes getting them dressed, and wiping their butts, for the same amount of money that they could be making serving burgers and fries with their peers.

Who are these angels?

Again, they are not miracle workers, they are not having any huge breakthroughs with their special needs clients, but they show up for work every day, have tolerance, and have a smile on their face for the most part.

Anyway, let’s wrap this post up…

So, my 2 big takeaways for this post are:

1) think about it, the youth of this generation get a bad wrap, don’t they?  They seem to be a lot more tolerant and open to people with special needs than previous generations.


2)  when you think someone is doing a good job, tell them, and tell their boss!  Bosses are so used to hearing complaints about their employees from the public that getting a compliment can make their day!

That’s it.  Over and out!


Written by

Frank Campagna

I’m a 48 year old neurotypical dad with a 14 year old son with severe, non-verbal autism & epilepsy. I created this blog to rant about autism & epilepsy while celebrating my son who I affectionately call “the king” :-).

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7 People Replies to “A Salute to Young Adults That Work w/ Special Needs Kids & Adults”

  1. I agree about kids getting a bad rap. I think we are raising increasingly tolerant and kind children. Sure, there is bullying and meanness. But modern life, including an exposure to social media, is not necessarily bereft of kindness and a sense of community. After all, I found Autism Daddy and I've learnt so much! Teenagers face uncertain career paths and job instability, the threat of terrorism and confusing messages about how to behave. And yet, in a world of self-absorption, many wonderful kids are still capable of looking outward for true fulfilment.

  2. Anonymous

    When I was a teenager my aunt had a care home for kids with disabilities, and when I went and visited I met this one boy that just won my heart, I enjoyed playing with him so much even tho he didn't walk, talk, but there was just something about him. So my first job while in high school was in a nursing home, but soon after and for many years I worked in a couple care homes for children with disabilities. My last job I tried doing in home care for the elderly. So I guess for me, I like helping people. I would much rather be wiping someone's rear than flipping burgers.

  3. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this post. I started working with special needs kids when I was 16, pretty much by accident as it was the first job I found. 7 years on and I'm now a qualified speech therapist specialising in learning disability, still in touch with lots of the families I supported then.

  4. Anonymous

    Nice for those kids to be acknowledged and know they are appreciated.

  5. Anonymous

    Thank you, AD…my 17 year old granddaughter works with special need kids, she is selfless, I admire her strengths everyday. She has done camps, sports, swimming and never tires! She has been hit, bitten, scratched but never gives up….just got accepted in college and you guessed it her choose profession special need social work, she wants to make difference in the autism world….Hats off to all the young people giving from their hearts…