This is a letter to the community hoping that it will be read by people who are having a difficult time accepting the unknown about children and adults with disabilities. I am encouraged to write to inform the public about what they might see from time to time in stores, in malls, at fast food restaurants, in barbershops and in grocery stores.
A few weeks ago a group of children and their teacher was approached by a man in Covington and told that it seems like there would be something they could be doing with the children at school instead of hanging out in stores.
I'm sure the man didn't understand was that for some of the children this might have been the only time that child could go into a store, or the first time shopping for a gift. When we have children under our umbrella that society calls (normal) no particular handicaps, we have a tendency to forget about all the children who are trying to accomplish the same goals with handicaps.
The ones of us who have handicaps, will still have to learn to live in Covington. We have to learn how to order when we go to a fast food restaurant, how to buy a shirt that matches our pants, how to go into the grocery store and purchase microwave popcorn and other items that we like to eat. Because of the experiences with our teachers, we might even be able to get a job when we finish school.
My name is Jajuan. I am in the sixth grade. You might have seen me in one of your stores or restaurants. I like to go shopping. I am a frequent shopper. I am 11-years-old but I am still having a difficult time getting my words in the right order when I talk to people. I have accomplished many things this past summer. I learned to tie my shoes. My family thought they would have to continue to buy me shoes with Velcro. I showed them. I learned to ride my bike without training wheels. Now, I go everywhere with my bike. The people in my neighborhood know me and they are kind to me when they see me out with my bike.
I like people but I know all people don't like me. That's OK because one day when they understand my disability has no particular look and that we are all over the place, they will appreciate who we are. The disability that I have is not fun. My family doesn't always understand me. Mainly because I can't talk and tell them stuff. I know they love me and that's enough right now because I am changing every day. My brain is developing, channeling information into the areas that have been empty for a long time.
So, I am learning just slower than other boys my age. I will one day be a man. I will one day have a job. I will one day live in a house independent of my family. God has blessed me with so much and my autism will not hold me back.
Jajuan Shaw, a resident of Oak Hill Community, submitted this column to The News. He was assisted in crafting this column by his gramdmother, Betty.