The past few summers I have had fun taking speech therapy on the road with my friend, James. We call our sessions “outings.” I’m not sure who enjoys the change up of scenery most, James or me, as get outside to work on his goals through trips to the Audubon, book store, library, creek, beach and car dealership. The last option is James’ favorite–he has always loved cars and as therapists, we know that kids are more engaged and learn more when discussing a topic of interest.
So we climbed in the car and took off for Volvo of Westport. We were greeted warmly by the woman at the reception area and several salesmen came up to talk with us, engaging James in conversation, allowing us to work on his goals, as they patiently waited for him to use his sounds and grammar goals with a few prompts by me. James insisted on telling them that my car was dirty so they asked for my keys and I had a wash while we visited. Lee Weston came over, the salesman who had sold us our car, and visited with James, even disappearing to gather a few gifts for us–a carry bag and water bottle. James was all smiles and couldn’t stop talking on the way home, “Like that guy,” “That guy is nice to me!”
Now you might say of course they would be nice to me since I bought my car there but the fact is that the first 3 people to greet and chat with us had no idea I was a former customer. Purposely gathering around us when we came in the door, they made us feel welcome. They also don’t know what a contrast our experience at Volvo was to that at two other dealerships. James and I walked into a competitor’s showroom (where my husband had recently bought his car by the way) and the receptionist or greeter completely ignored us, never made eye contact or spoke to us. Even when I asked for a brochure or picture of their cars, she was dismissive. Funny thing is, that was last summer on our outings, and I was actually looking for a new car.
People lose out when they look past kids with special needs. James has a lot to teach others–kindness, patience, interest and even enthusiasm for their product. Ever since we went to Volvo of Westport, James says, “Look, Sherry, Volvo,” when he sees their insignia. That’s pretty special for a guy who finds reading challenging. He’s got “Volvo” down real well, and he can’t stop talking about “that nice guy!”