Walking through high school I used to find myself drowning in the stereotypical intensity of knowledge. However, once I began spending time with Erin, my perception of knowledge changed. She was born with Down syndrome and the story behind our relationship started when I was asked to babysit for Erin. I was terrified. I had never been around someone with a mental disability, and I wasn’t sure how to react or handle certain situations. Her mom saw my capability before I did.
Erin was a very quiet girl. She didn’t know me very well, so she kept to herself. The more frequent our time together became the more open she became. I would walk through the door and see her smiling face. She would always stand up and smile at me. “BECCAAA!” she would yell, then give one of the best hugs I’d ever receive. “Oh, you’re back. Oh, Becca you’re back,” she would state. The progression of our friendship only proceeded from then.
It wasn’t till a few months after my sitting began, that Erin’s mother Maria approached me in a different manner. She noticed how well Erin and I communicated and asked me if I would begin tutoring Erin. I never really found myself thinking Erin couldn’t improve her capabilities. I also didn’t have the mindset to believe she could develop. I didn’t understand that her brain had the capability to obtain, capture, and learn this new information. I only saw the book definition of knowledge, and according to what I thought I knew Erin was not capable of that.
Erin was put on a reading program called eReadingPro. It is specially designed for children with special needs, like Erin. The backbone to this program is taking a specific set of words and repeatedly having the child read them throughout the course of a few days. This program not only helped her reading, but also her speech and listening skills. Things went smoothly. I was shocked how quickly Erin picked up on things. She would sound out a word with my help, by the next day she would read it a little bit faster, and by the time the cycle of that word was done she could read it by sight and memory. I never imagined that something like this could happen. I found myself having a sense of pride in both Erin and myself.
Weeks, months, years have now gone by. I still go to see Erin on a regular basis. When I look at Erin, I see the true meaning of knowledge. It isn’t about the grades you get in high school, or the amount of words you read per minute, or even how fast you can recite your multiplication tables. Knowledge is the ability and the desire to take what you have and make it that much better. From Erin I have learned that being who I am isn’t a setback, but simply a motivation to be an even better me.