Valley Life for All column: Meet Kendall
Special to the Post Independent
Editor’s note: The Post Independent, in conjunction with Valley Life For All, continues a monthly series of profiles about people in our community who have different abilities.
Kendall was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old. The journey with Kendall over the past 16 years has been full of hurdles but always rewarding — just like with any kid. We are still not exactly sure where he will end up, but we can be sure that the rest of the journey will be just as exciting as the first part. I think his story may help you understand some of the challenges he (and other kids like him) face and also why it is a huge benefit, not only for Kendall, but for those with the curious and open attitude, to put aside some of the hurdles and get to know him.
Kendall has always exhibited many classic autistic behaviors, which can be odd and off-putting to people who have not been exposed to kids on the autistic spectrum. When Kendall was younger he would sometimes have tantrums in public as his sensory receptors became overloaded. He has managed to get this behavior under control although there are still infrequent episodes when he loses it in public. He often stims, making odd sounds and noises, sometimes hopping up and down and moving his arms around. We are always pleased when Kendall meets someone who can accept his behavior, not be intimidated or repulsed by it, and interact with Kendall. Kendall is very curious about other people and wants to get to know them.
A good example happened a few years ago. Kendall approached a family and was curious to know where they were from and what they were doing. Kendall is very outgoing but has not yet mastered some of the finesse of casual conversation. His questions often come across as interrogation: direct, rapid fire, with not much information contributed from his end. A lovely family from Indiana patiently fielded his questions with good humor. Kendall was convinced they were from the country of India, not the state of Indiana, and grilled them about this. They graciously explained until Kendall understood. Once Kendall’s questions were answered, he relaxed and began to field questions from their end. Kendall was thrilled with the dialog, and we watched with warm hearts as this played out.
We have been lucky to have several educators who have understood the benefit of taking the time to let people understand the special behavior of kids like Kendall and to go out of their way to ensure that kids get to know Kendall and that Kendall is able to show that he is a normal kid despite some of his unusual behaviors.
Kendall has a lot of friends with similar disabilities and with the same underlying goodness that is a pleasure to be with. There is a big reward for those who accept some behavioral differences and get to know these remarkable people.
Local nonprofit Valley Life for All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. We want to hear your voice. Request a training or join the conversation at http://www.valleylifeforall.org or #voicability4all. Help us redefine the perception of challenge.
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The Forest Service plans to replace the Carbondale Aspen-Sopris ranger district station with a newer, larger facility.