I help out at a club for 5-8 year old boys called "Beavers" and I provide one-to-one support for a little boy called Oliver who has Downs syndrome and autism.
Oliver can't talk: he uses Makaton. The reason I provide one-to-one support is because I also sign with Makaton, so I help him communicate and get the best out of his time there.
Last week he developed a strong attachment to me and was doing the sign for "I love you", and was hugging me.
I have depression and self-harm scars, but around him- this is irrelevant. He brings a smile to my face every time I see him! He is one of the few reasons I keep going.
He and his mother helped me learn Makaton and I am now a reasonably confident signer, although I do still make mistakes, as Oliver ALWAYS points out. We also have many giggles when we are there.
Once, we were looking at the sense 'taste'. All the boys were trying crisps and working out what flavour they were. So I asked Oliver, "What does this taste like?" He looked at me blankly. "Oliver," I said, trying to grab his attention. "What do the crisps taste like?"
He looked at the crisp in his hand and then looked back at me.
"Crisps!" He signed...
Also on the literal side of his mind, when we were looking at 'smell' he smelt a tiny pot of hot chocolate that had gone cold and instantly put his finger to his chin and made the sign for chocolate.
"Well done Oliver!" I exclaimed, I wanted to test him a little more: "Is it hot chocolate?" I asked.
He put his fingers in the pot and told me it wasn't, because it had gone cold.
This little boy has opened my eyes so much! To how, no matter what struggles you are going through, you can overcome them. To how, talking is the smallest part of communicating. And to how the biggest thing that could help change his life is if more people understand and appreciate children with learning disabilities. Then maybe Oliver wouldn't need one-to-one support all the time and he could be more independent.
Saying that, I can't imagine how I would be without him. He has seriously changed my life. He has saved my life at times. So a big thank you to Oliver :-)