It was a bright, warm spring afternoon in Florida when my friend Heather pulled into our driveway bringing my daughter, Maeleigh, home from school. Our carpool includes Maeleigh and her two best friends, Lilly and Amelia. Unexpectedly, Lilly turned to Heather and stated very simply and honestly “I am scared of Bronson.” Amelia then proceeded to say, “Yes, I think he is weird.” Maeleigh was devastated, unable to understand why her best friends would feel this way about her brother. But their honesty is appreciated and understood. They are children looking for answers, and yearning to understand this distinction. Lilly and Amelia spend a lot of time with Bronson, as they are Maeleigh’s best friends. In that moment, my friend Heather was at a loss, somewhat unsure how to respond.
Heather approached me later, looking for answers too. She wanted to know how to respond to this very delicate subject. She could have easily looked the other way, but she didn’t. I appreciate her honesty and boldness. I appreciate her heart. I told Heather that I know this is not a quick fix and responding to the girls with “reassuring words” is like using a bandage to cover a gapping hole in our society and our worldview on special needs individuals. Immeasurable change is necessary. We need to start with the next generation, teaching them to love and embrace all people regardless of differences in every aspect.
This simple, yet complex conversation with Heather planted a seed in my heart. Maeleigh, Lilly, Amelia, and Bronson are the inspiration for Brave Like Bronson, Inc. The innocent honesty of two young girls will possibly help bridge the gap that our society has needed for so many years. I want to help make this right. I need to help make this right!
Chances are, at some point typical children will have a classmate with a disability. Brave Like Bronson, Inc. visits schools and encourages children to learn about disabilities. Disabilities cover a wide range. Some are obvious - such as a child with a physical disability who uses a wheelchair. Other disabilities may be more "hidden" -- for example, children who have an autism spectrum disorder or a sensory processing disorder.
Brave Like Bronson, Inc. brings light on disabilities during classroom visits and teaches inclusion by engaging activities through hands on experiences. The students will meet fun puppet friends who will share their story. As the children listen, they will learn more about why everyone has their own unique characteristics. The younger a child is when they are exposed to others with disabilities, the less “weird” those disabled children become. I see this truth in the face and heart of my own children who have been exposed to individuals with disabilities since birth. The children will learn that every person is extremely special, with purpose and worth regardless of their ability or disability.
Our ultimate goal is to bridge this gap. We want to see typical children learn how to love and embrace children with differences, with special needs. Our passion is for special needs children to not only be included, but to be understood as well. The entire worldview of the special needs community could shift for the better in the tiny hearts of our next generation. If our next generation can learn how to embrace each other regardless of their uniqueness, the world will look different in many ways.