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Friday, 01 June 2018 21:25

A passion within her: Student bringing exceptional children to forefront Featured

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As school gets ready to come to a close, Allyson Harden will be busy continuing her effort to bring exceptional children to the forefront.

The Roanoke Rapids High School student, who is closing out her sophomore year, has already set the plans in motion with a Facebook page called Exceptional Children are My Heroes where she has promoted fundraisers for the Life Skills classes at the high school selling T-shirts.

“I want to present this to the school fully completed,” she said. “I want to do a color run for exceptional children, that’s the main thing I want to work on this summer. I want to do more T-shirts, bracelets and cups.”

She got 30 orders for T-shirts during this school year and her involvement has helped her focus on her future career. “It makes me feel like I wanted to do this. I feel like it called me to do this. I feel like this is start of my career.”

Her future plans are to become an exceptional children teacher or enter the medical profession to work with the children.

Her interest began when she was asked to do a HOSA project on exceptional children and it sparked a passion for them. “I felt like the exceptional kids never get enough respect. I started working with them on a daily basis. It’s changed what I want to go to college for. It’s changed the way I view people in their environment, that everyone should be equal. It’s taught me they have their own kind of uniqueness.”

She meets the children in the morning, takes them to class and has lunch with them. “To be working with these kids means a lot. It’s helped me to forge a relationship with them and gain a better understanding of them.”

Her best friend

One of the students with whom she has forged a relationship is Kevin Wheeler.  

In a recent Facebook post, she explained the special relationship with him. “My best friend has autism. His name is Kevin and he sees the world differently. His mind makes patterns and connections that I can never dream of understanding … Kevin is in fact one of the smartest people I know. The way his mind works is so different from other people. You may not even think it’s normal. Normal is such a horrible term. You don’t see who he really is unless you sit down and really get to know him. Sure, sometimes you may see us in public and he may get overwhelmed. All I have to do is tell him to give me a big hug and tell him it is going to be OK.”

Said Allyson in the post: “Kevin has taught me so many things, so many that I am here to share them with you. He has taught me that the way we choose to see the world creates the world we see. Autism offers a chance to glimpse an awe-filled vision of the world that other pass by.

“Children with autism are colorful. They are often beautiful, and like the rainbow, they stand out in ways that make them unique. I’ve learned that a child with autism isn’t ignoring you. They are just simply waiting for you to enter their amazing world. Someone with autism has taught me that love needs no words.”

Kevin’s mother, Kristi, said in a recent interview, “We are supporting her in her fundraising.”


Her passion

Allyson’s mother, Amy, is proud of the work her daughter is doing. “She loves everybody. She has a love for older people.”

The exceptional children, her mother said, are her passion. “She wants to work with them, she wants to help them in every way she can.”

Allyson has already expanded her work beyond the high school and is working with the children at Belmont.

A speech during a production put on by the exceptional students sums up her work with the children. “Throughout my experience with exceptional children, many emotions continued to fill the air and will never stop. I never knew how to truly react or respond with my perceptions towards the exceptional children. I knew this is what my heart told me to do, but I didn’t know how to do it. I started off with thinking about how I wanted to change the way the world viewed this kids.”

In the speech she said, “Exceptional children aren’t what you think they are until you spend time with them and learn who they really are … Working with these kids has taught me so much, but one thing sticks out the most. To me, disability is a matter of perception. When you hear the word disabled, people immediately think about people who can’t walk or talk or do everything that people take for granted. Now, I take nothing for granted. But we find the real disability is people who can’t find joy in life and are bitter.”

Closing her speech, she said, “Once you learn to accept and love them for who they are, you subconsciously learn to love them all unconditionally, which is exactly what I have done with these kids. I love them more and more every day.  A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. And these are my heroes.”

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