It poured rain here in Orange County today.

(And suddenly everyone forgets how to drive. But that’s another story, for another day).

Anyway, it was early afternoon and I was driving home from class when I saw a group of special needs adults walking down the sidewalk with who I presumed were their aides or caretakers.

Probably an adult transition program, I thought to myself.

My heart always leaps into my throat when I see these groups walking around my neighborhood. Against my will, I’m immediately thrust ten years into the future, when my own special needs son will likely be participating in similar activities.

I’m not ready.


Not even a little bit.

But back to this afternoon. It just so happened that I caught a red light and had to slow down right next to this group of special needs adults. And that’s when I realized they were getting soaked to the bone.

And that the only people with umbrellas were the aides and caretakers.


It’s called compassion. It’s called dignity. It’s called giving a crap and being of service.

If you go into this line of work and that’s not the way you look at your job, do me a favor and find something else to do for a living.

Like licking stamps.

I’m mad at myself too.

I should have pulled over and said something.

I should have gone across the street and purchased six umbrellas and given them to those soaking wet special needs adults.

I should have.

But I didn’t.

And that’s the last time I see something like that and not get involved.

Because as my best friend reminded me today, every one of those adults is someone’s child. Someone’s vulnerable, special needs child.

Which makes them my child too.



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14 Replies to “Special Needs People Deserve Umbrellas Too”

  1. Jennifer – you are absolutely right. I was so absorbed in my thoughts about my own son and just this overall feeling of “Really?!” that honestly, it didn’t even occur to me in that moment, and I feel ashamed about that. Lesson learned. As I said in my post, that was the last time I didn’t get involved.

  2. I wasn’t trying to shame you… there was something up. Get the agency name, call them asap…I have so many of these same moments… we just go duh?

  3. Oh, Jo. How often we have all realized too late an opportunity to make a difference. Thank you for continuing to share your stories. It’s a wake-up call for all of us.

  4. Absolutely. And the shame isn’t from you or anything you said. It’s something I will carry close to me so that I never forget to intervene again.

  5. If this had been you taking your special needs child down the street, somebody would have called CPS on you in a second. Yet they drive by ignoring a group of adults who get just as wet and just as cold as those nice comfy “care” takers who are walking along under umbrellas. This type of thing just makes me furious. Those caretakers need to be re-trained and reprimanded severely. If they’ll do something like that in public, just think of the horrors those special needs persons are probably going through behind closed doors.

  6. Yes. Your baby is my baby. And everyone is SOMEONE’S “baby” and deserves love, dignity, compassion. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Now, you know better; next time you’ll DO better. Because your heart is that big.

  7. For what it’s worth, I have seen this same scenario with “regular” school children, all getting drenched while teachers huddle under umbrellas. It’s as if the kids are not worthy of staying dry. What lesson are those children learning, eh?

    Lack of compassion and discourtesy extends way beyond special needs kids. We’ve totally forgotten our manners — on so many levels.

  8. I’m sure you could find the office and at least let them know what you saw… I think the same thing when I drop my son off at school, I drop him where the busses drop of the special needs kids as my son is deaf and in a special program he gets dropped off there. Well there are no benches, no weather covers for sun or rain… They sit on the cold ground or hot ground stand in the rain or in the 104 degree weather! All the other kids can stand in the walk way that is covered…. And yet I have not brought it to the attention of the district… Some of these kids will not tell you or can’t tell you if the ground is too hot or too cold and and it breaks my heart… Now I will bring it up to the district and will not stop till these sweet babies have some shade and benches!!!!

  9. I see this all the time and it infuriates me. I often know which organization it is too, because I used to work there. Reporting it does not seem to matter… they know it goes on. I wish publicizing it would not victimize the participants. Don’t really know what to do about it.

  10. Just wanted to day thank you for sharing your story. You didn’t have to. It’s beautifully written and heartfelt. And because you took the time to not only write and post it but also stand up and take your lumps, I and many others will pass your story along. Your “inactivity” in this particular situation will not go in vain and, in fact, has prepared an army of “Oh hell no, not on my watch” activists.

  11. I know it’s soooo trite, but it’s also soooo effing true: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

    I know you are, and even posting about this makes you part of that change. But be more next time. Isn’t it refreshing to know we can only get BETTER from here? 🙂 xoxo

  12. It really is! Just knowing that the next decision/action we make or take can be better than the one before it is so humbling and beautiful and inspiring!

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