How to talk to Neil
Monday, August 05, 2013
I met Neil, a young man in his mid twenties, a couple of years ago. We attend the same gym at the same time most days. He has special needs, is physically able but mentally about 7-10 years old. His grandmother drops him off to exercise every morning for two hours. Neil is very careful not to keep her waiting- he is out the door in a flash when he sees her car. Most people at the gym enjoy Neil's company. He insists on doing many things wrong, which makes the trainers cringe. Fearing he might injure himself, but he has done it his way for so many years without problems that nobody corrects him anymore. He always greets everybody, he always stops for a chat. He always tells me that his bones are not made of milk by God, like everybody else, they are made of titanium steel in a lab. He always shows me his muscles. He always asks about my daughter who has special needs too. I love Neil. He adds joy to my time at the gym.
The thing with Neil is, he has an eye for a beautiful girl, as well as impeccable taste. He especially loves talking to the really sexy ones, like the female personal trainers for instance. (Not the older, overweight ones like me. I get about 5 minutes of his time) He would hang around them, chatting non-stop while they are working with their clients.
Sometimes this offends. I suppose if you are paying someone to help you work out, and to focus on you, Neil does not add to the experience. Some people just ignore him. Some are irritated but not willing to say anything. Some people just plain don't know how to handle the situation.
As a mom, of a child with special needs I would like to give the following pointers. For all who wondered.
Recognise a disabled child's worth as a person. Speak to the heart of the person, while looking into their eyes, there might be a lot of 'noise' going around in the brain, but the heart is where the spirit lives, it understands more than we think. Recognise that you are talking to the seven year old who lives in the grown person's body. Make sure your body language agrees with what is coming out of your mouth.
Speak the truth simply and with love.
Say: Neil, we had a wonderful talk, it was great. Now I have to concentrate on my client's workout. I cannot talk to you right now. We will talk later. If you do the circuit, I will keep an eye on you. I can see that you are getting stronger every day.
As easy as that, and hang on to your sense of humour.