MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Memphis elementary school class is teaching a life lesson about kindness.
Every day inside Mrs. Freeman’s pre-kindergarten class, 4-year-old Miriam gets hugs from all her classmates at Bruce Elementary School before she leaves.
“To see that typical children are included with and exposed to children that have physical difference, mental differences, behavioral difference is really important to me, because we need to live in the world together,” said Alli Echlin, Miriam’s mother.
Echlin and her husband adopted Miriam at birth not knowing the challenges that would lie ahead.
“We were at lunch after church and we got the call that the baby was here,” she said.
That day the Echlins learned Miriam’s birth mother used heroin daily during the pregnancy and abandoned Miriam at the hospital after her birth. Doctors prepared the Echlins for problems that could arise for Miriam.
“But 27 days later we left with a happy, healthy baby,” she said.
By the age of 2, Miriam was diagnosed with cerebral palsy triggered by seizures.
Today, Miriam is mostly non-verbal, using sign language and a “talker” to communicate. She recently graduated from a walker to forearm crutches to get around.
“Just as a parent in general, we want our children to be accepted, but when you add in the levels of intricacies of challenges physically, being non-verbal,” said Echlin. “It’s not only her class, it’s the whole school, accept her and love her.”
Her classmates embrace Miriam’s physical challenges, angling to be her helper at school.
“So many people look at her and think that she’s broken or think that she’s not smart or doesn’t understand. And I would never assume any of that on anyone you meet. Just start with kindness,” said Echlin.
It’s a lesson for everyone taught by some of this school’s youngest students.