Hugs for Miriam: Students teaching acceptance and kindness with daily hugs for 4-year-old classmate with cerebral palsy

Updated: Feb. 20, 2020 at 5:56 PM CST
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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.

Almost every day at pick up Miriam gets all the hugs and high fives! I’ve seen other kids coming and going and somehow Miriam gets celebrity treatment from her friends! You guys, I can’t tell you enough beautiful things about all of Miriam’s friends and teachers! 💕 💕 Every single time she walks through the door she is greeted by every single child and teacher in the class. She gets cheered on and celebrated for working hard on her talker, in her walking canes and just about anything she progresses in! 👫👭👬 It brings me so much joy to see this little generation of dreamers and doers accepting and celebrating Miriam just like she is! It is my hope that because of their budding friendships with Mir, each child will continue to foster and grow their love and appreciation for differences in all people, not just differently abled people! 🥰 If you needed to find some good in the world today, here it is!

Posted by Adventures with Mighty Miriam on Wednesday, February 19, 2020

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.”

Every day before 4-year-old Miriam is picked up from school, her classmates hug her goodbye.

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.

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