'Big Bang Theory' Star: Here’s to Those Who Empower People With Special Needs
My dad was a junior high school drama teacher for most of my childhood. In all of the schools he taught in, he would approach the special education teachers and ask them if any of their students wanted to be in his drama class. Most teachers didn’t have students interested, but every year, a few students would say yes. So I grew up seeing my father put on plays with students with special needs and work them seamlessly into his plays, such as deaf students signing their lines right alongside not hard-of-hearing students.
He once had a student with cerebral palsy, who had significant difficulty with speech and walking, as an active participant in one of his plays, reciting lines with great difficulty but with tremendous heart. Everyone cried at that performance.
It was the gestures of my father’s tremendous heart that made me understand from a young age that there’s no such thing as too small of an act of empowering people with special needs. My father’s efforts impressed entire classrooms of students who had the opportunity to work with other students with special needs and learn about patience and flexibility and talent and trust as an artist. And everyone who saw my father’s plays saw what that meant in action. And the parents of the students he taught got to see their child have an experience rarely open to them. Those moments of my childhood have stuck with me.
My thesis at UCLA focused on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in adolescents with a condition called Prader-Willi syndrome. I chose to work with individuals with special needs as a graduate student specifically because my father set that example for me my entire life.
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