Falling In the GAP

We have all heard the phrase falling between the cracks. Sometimes people with different and specific needs cannot find the right fit for them or there is just nothing geared towards those with such criteria. Sadly, it is understood that not everyone gets the care and attention they need because there is no way to tailor programs to so many different needs. That’s a very pessimistic outlook, isn’t it? I fell into one of these cracks or as they should be called, GAPs. What if we saw these GAPs as an opportunity for a niche market?
Through my own personal experiences and growth in life I have learned that I want to help people. My first experience with this was in the fourth grade. My teacher asked me to help one of my fellow classmates who had been left behind. Little did I know; my teacher had been struggling for months to break through to her. Once she saw that I was able to, I was asked to be her “tutor” for the remainder of that schoolyear. As a young student I obliged and thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until the end of the year that my parents were informed of what I had been doing and they had praised me for it. This set a ball in motion for me that I have never wanted to stop.
Fast forward to me turning 18 and just having graduated high school. I attended community college and worked on the weekends. I had two best friends that I would hang out with daily. I always knew that one of them was different. He struggled in school and with developing the social skills needed to grant him success with others. He was my best friend though and we always had each other’s backs. His mother saw that I had been successful with him and asked me to join her agency to help youth struggling with SED’s (Serious Emotional Disease). At 21 years of age, I had finally gotten an understanding of those with special needs and how to better assist them. It wasn’t until then that I had realized my best friend had been diagnosed with SED’s/ASD. How could I have never known this after being friends with him close to seven years? It’s because it didn’t matter. He was my friend and I had his back regardless.
At this point I wanted to do more! I wanted to have his back in ways that I never did before. I wanted to move up in my agency and acquire the skills to give my best friend the best chance to succeed. Unfortunately, my lack of education prevented me from advancing in the company and my new-found awareness of my best friend’s needs caused him to notice that I was behaving differently. He began to distance himself from me. This was a tough time. I felt like I lost my way.
This was not going to stop me though. I began volunteering with Special Olympics and began educating myself on mental health and a variety of different disabilities. I wanted to advance in this field but it was difficult. I felt like had fallen between the cracks. Little did I know, I had fallen into the G.A.P.
Life takes us weird places sometimes but there will always be a net to catch us. Sometimes we fall for a bit longer than we would like not knowing where we’re going to land but it is our duty to help provide a net in those cracks so that no one is left behind. The Gottschall Access Program did that for me and for so many of our students. I hope more GAPs can be created so no one should feel like they’ve fallen between the cracks.

Thanks for listening,
Antonio Vitorino

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