The Vacant seat- a story by Vandana Gautam

The Vacant Seat

Let us talk about the vacant seat; you must be wondering, “What is so special about this vacant seat? Why I need to think or worry about any vacant seat? “ . However, the vacant seat I am going to talk about is indeed a special one and it is desperately looking for a companion. Let me take you to a walk in your society. Have you ever seen or noticed a child playing all alone or sitting alone on a swing? All other kids are playing around in a group, adults are passing by, few people are gossiping around and some are busy walking and talking on the phones. While this child is all alone looking at the kids playing or busy in his own world may be making some unusual sounds and movements and same time dealing with unusual stares. This child is Raghav (Imaginary name). He is a child with special needs. The seat next to him is always vacant! In the school bus, in the classroom, in a canteen, in a social gathering and sometimes even in the park. Have you ever tried to listen to Raghav’s unsaid words, if you will ever try, you might hear “I too want to play … “I too want the fun …” I want to make friends …, But …………… I just don’t know how? Now you must be thinking even if I can hear the unsaid words, how I can make a difference. What can I do? I don’t understand his diverse needs , I don’t even know what is his special need called and even if I am willing to I don’t know what I can do ? In this busy world when everyone has so many things to do, it might seem impossible. Believe me, it is achievable by doing these very simple things • Welcoming the special need person and their family with a smile. I guarantee you it is a game changer and the first step to build up the bridge of inclusion. • Teaching our kids from the beginning about the neurodiversity and special people, being friends with the special needs, playing and taking care of them. • In case you are a teacher, you play an important role here, as you are the builder of next generation. • Being empathetic to the special need persons and their families, giving them the feeling that “we understand and are with you”. • Respecting the individuals with special needs and appreciating their efforts. • Being their support systems by including them. When we all talk about the inclusive world and accepting all kind of diversities, there should be no place for a vacant seat. Inclusion is a two way process. Efforts by the person who wants to be included and efforts by the other side of the people be it friends, family, neighbors, schoolmates and colleagues. All of us have to play a major role. Feeling pity for the people with diverse needs (special needs) and their parents is not what they need. What actually they need is our support, love and time. Let us together make it a practice to welcome that special child and parent with a smile and heart full of acceptance. It will create a beautiful world around fall of us that will be full of love and happiness. The persons with special needs have purest hearts little will you give they will give all of theirs to you.

Let us fill that vacant seat.

“Inclusion is not tolerance; its unquestioned acceptance.”

By Shilpi Mayank Awasthi

'Live your life so that when it’s time to ask where the time went, you can answer: “It went to joyful moments with family and friends, to my search for passion, to doing work that felt like play, to standing up for what I believe in, and to exploring this beautiful world we live in with an open heart. My time went to LIVING my life!' -unknown

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