Often times the easiest reaction to human tragedy is to ignore it.  Yet when one is surrounded by a hundred Profoundly Mentally Handicapped children who also live with a multitude of other challenges, there is no way one can walk away.  The expressions in their eyes can communicate volumes if one just stops long enough to listen.

A soft touch, a cheerful “Good morning”, or singing a simple song can bring a smile that warms my heart and is worth more than anything money can buy.  To be able to see these very special children enjoy a safe and loving school environment where they are valued, cherished, and empowered to be all they can be despite their limitations, gives me that energy to face my work day’s challenges.  Working with families who have the responsibility of caring for one of these completely dependent and fragile children is a special calling, and a privilege.

At my job as School Social Worker at Neva King Cooper Educational Center in Homestead, Florida, I began to understand from a professional perspective the tremendous challenges that our students’ families must face on an ongoing basis.

Many are blessed by having the support of family and friends. Sadly, I encounter many cases in which the stresses of having a special child was reason enough for a father to bail out, leaving a mother as the sole provider and caregiver for that child, and often for other siblings.  As if these challenges were not enough, some of these mothers lack family support and have no time to socialize. Many have no transportation, and because they are not eligible, have no access to the services that they so desperately need from government agencies.

I often hear the desperate cries, “Does anybody care?” I’m here to tell them, “Yes, God cares, I care…and many people care, and our community cares”.  My greatest joy is to be able to bring the hope that they need to carry them through those moments which may paralyze them with fear. And to help them take a deep breath and notice that there is joy even in the little things, like that child’s smile or the twinkle in their eyes.

To be able to introduce our community to these children and their needs has been one of the most encouraging things in my profession.  It is my mission to find and connect these families to the many resources that come from people who have chosen to step outside of their comfort zone and reach out to our neediest citizens.

It wasn’t until I was able to step into that “Special Needs Community Zone” myself, when our only daughter gave birth to our precious grandbaby Alyssa, that I was able to have a taste of what it is like to embrace one of these very special little ones in our own home.  You see, to everyone’s surprise, Alyssa was born with Down Syndrome and spent the first month of her life in the NICU due to complications from Bacterial Meningitis which left her with hearing loss in one ear.

I am now able to see Special Needs families from a new perspective.  I now have a new passion to bring hope and encouragement to the many families and tell them “Yes, people care!  I care, but most of all God cares, and is always there to meet needs and bring hope, often through people like you and I.“

By Sarah Laucirica, M.S.W.

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.