Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Think I have said here before that I don't get many chances to be with the children when we are on programme, because my role is more of a support one.
You know, all of those essential daily chores, like driving, shopping, cleaning and cooking (Just call me Cinderella!)
There are so many special moments for me with the kids though, and maybe those moments are more special for me because they occur only occasionally.
There was one late afternoon, when I arrived at the Special Needs Centre to collect a group of volunteers from what I know would have been a long and tiring day. When I arrived though, all of the volunteers were still outside with the children playing ball games and obviously having a great time, so I just sat back to one side and watched while I gave them all a little more time to enjoy the end of their busy day.
I spent a few minutes watching and shouting encouragement and occasionally fetching the odd stray ball and throwing it back into the melee.
As I watched I looked over and I saw one of the little girls who was resident at the centre sitting on some steps. As usual she was just sitting there, staring downwards and rocking to and fro, it was what she did most of the time, seemingly lost in her own solitary world concentrating her vision onto the cold bare concrete below her feet.
I moved slowly and went to sit on the steps too, but not too close.
I am no expert with special needs children, but one thing I do know is that every one is different and very few enjoy having their private space invaded by a stranger.
As I sat down, I was aware that she gave me a very brief glance out of the corner of her eye, so I just sat still where I was while she carried on rocking backwards and forwards. I stayed quiet whilst I was sitting there, no more raucous conversation with the volunteers on the field and playground, I didn't want to disturb what was happening next to me. 
As I sat there I heard her talking quietly to herself, her words matching the rhythm of her rocking, she was speaking her usual words. Words that we had heard her use so often before;

"Shut-up!   Be Quiet!"

It was in Romanian, of course, but these were the only words we ever hear her speak. To hear them almost breaks your heart, because you also knew that when she was at home as a baby, these were the only words that she ever heard. They were her only means of verbal communication.

"Shut-up!   Be Quiet!"

After a few minutes of sitting I leaned forward and picked up a couple of small stones from between my feet and started to play with them and roll them around in my fingers. As I leaned forward I noticed, or at least I thought I noticed, that this little girl also leaned forward further, matching my movement, I also noticed that she had stopped her usual quiet chant. I looked over at her briefly, and for an instant she looked at me too, out of the corner of her eye.
I wasn't sure whether I was correct in what I had seen, so I decided to try again, and I leaned forward, slowly. As I did I looked at her and she too leaned forward further, matching what I did. As I sat back up I rocked slightly further back to match her movements and then, very slowly I continued rocking matching her movements exactly.
She was in charge, if at any moment she showed any sign of upset by what I was doing I would have stopped and if necessary moved away. Instead of being upset though I was aware of another movement from her, as well as rocking to and fro she slid herself slightly along the step to move a little closer to me. as she did so she also gave me another of her sideways glances, I knew I that she too was being as cautious with me as I was being with her, we were both trying each other out. This time though, she looked for a little longer, slid a little closer, and she smiled! It was only a very slight smile, but it was definitely a smile!
I felt great, in such a brief time, by doing something as simple as rocking backwards and forwards with her I had made some sort of contact with her, she knew it, I knew it, and although I had instigated it, almost by accident, she was the one making all of the decisions on how this contact would go.
We carried on rocking backwards and forwards, slowly, in unison, matching each others movements, but we were a team now, 'Rocking' in every sense of the word.
Slowly, bit by bit, millimetre by millimetre, she moved closer, I also moved closer to her, which seemed to give her confidence, it was almost like an invitation, and in no time, she was sitting right next to me.
She looked at me, fully into my eyes and she grinned!
It was an enormous grin too. It was almost as if she was saying;

"Got you!"

I just looked at her and I laughed, while she carried on grinning.
We had both stopped rocking, she became intent on my watch, holding my arm, playing with the strap. 
We sat like that for about twenty minutes, her holding tightly onto my arm, playing with my watch strap, and occasionally watching the volunteers and the other kids playing ball, and occasionally giving each other a little smile. 
While we were like that though she didn't say a word, although with another child that silence would have been worrying, with this little girl it was wonderful not to hear her chanting those horrible words, even for a little while.
Then one of the children's carers came out to call them all inside, to get ready for their evening meal. As she heard the call, the little girl grasped my arm a little more tightly, and at first I thought that she didn't want me to leave, but actually I think it was her way of saying goodbye. Within seconds though one of the other children arrived and sat on the other side of her, as he sat down she immediately let go of me and grabbed hold of his arm. 
This little boy, a little older than her, was her occasional companion, I had seen them together at other times, smiling at each other and arm in arm, just as the little girl and I had been. He had been playing ball with the other children until the call to go inside had come, at which time he had come over to escort her home.

Sometimes it really is just the littlest things that can make a moment so special. This was definitely one of those moments. Just a few minutes when I been allowed into the world of this little girl, a world that always seems so dark, so full of horrible history, but a world which I had just discovered also contained a little cheek, and a little absolutely normal childhood mischief.

How many more of those special moments do we have to come when we work with the children?
I know there will be many more moments, but how many could be as special as this?
I'll tell you for myself, there will be many many more moments and some even more special than this.


Wouldn't you like to come and create your own special moments? Moments like this that will last you a lifetime?                                     

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