Everyone needs a safe space. A place where they feel they can be their true selves, with no masks or limitations. What’s yours? Where’s the place you go to for a sigh of relief – one filled with calm and freedom?
For many, this place is home – where your loved ones surround you. For others, it’s all alone in the great outdoors – surrounded by nature. For me, it was recently at Cisco, amongst colleagues, with a rather special someone in tow.
That special someone was my 8 year old son, Noam.
Of five amazing (if I do say so myself) children, Noam is our fourth. Born with a deletion in Chromosome #3 – he is the only case in the world with this type of deletion. From his very first moments, we knew he was super special.
The formal description of his condition is “Cognitive Developmental Disability” with a low muscle tone and several other issues. It requires constant observation with lots of learnings along the way.
Noam is quite tall for his age, funny, loves music and anything that has wheels. He is a kind and loving member of the family who is closely attached to his two sisters and two brothers. The fact that he is a “special needs child” does not take away his curiosity and interest in things he finds intriguing. He is fascinated most by cars, the iPad and computers.
I was elated to see that the Israeli Cisco Disabilities Awareness Network (CDAN) chapter (along with the Special Children Network) were planning a “Bring Your Special Kids to Work day” in the Jerusalem office, and it was immediately clear that we were going. As part of my role as an Inclusion & Collaboration Consultant and the CDAN EMEAR co-lead, I was involved in the planning of this wonderful day, but also kept a distance as I wanted to arrive as the mother of Noam.
Noam spoke about “coming to work” for more than a week and didn’t sleep too well the night before. It was apparent that he was just as excited for the day as I was.
When the day finally arrived, we saw a safe, fully accommodating space unfold in front of us. Nothing was rushed, there were no long lines to wait in, no loud music to avoid, and even if he jumped from his seat every 5 minutes – no one commented. There were only pleasant smiles, and offers to help Noam find what was most interesting to him in that moment.
The day started at 9:30am and was set to end at 12pm. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical that he would stay interested for so long, but I was surprised that he immersed himself completely. He bounced from the Gymboree to the Animal Petting station, then back to the music session before finally finding himself at the VR station for 20 minutes.
My belief that technology is the greatest enabler for people with disabilities and other underrepresented populations was amplified in these moments too. I was awed with Noam’s new revelations as he sensed his surroundings on a different level thanks to technology. “Imagine how tech could help others make sense of this world, building and creating experiences within the workforce,” I thought!
At 12pm we arrived at a dedicated table at the main cafeteria for lunch, and immediately a casual and easy conversation sprung between “special” kids (and their parents) who felt comfortable, at ease, safe, included, and valued.
Everyone from the cafeteria staff to fellow colleagues and friends noticed the “special” table and came to say hi. Many expressed how moved they were knowing that Cisco was investing time, money, and resources in our kids and in helping to support us, their parents.
Suddenly, I was not alone. Friendly, accepting smiles were everywhere.
We know that visible, encouraging actions, communication, and support from leadership and peers make all of us feel more comfortable. It helps to open dialogue, ask questions, and to create an inclusive environment. I am proud to share and bring my full self (along with my family) to my team and to Cisco every day.
By respecting and caring for each other (just one aspect of Cisco’s Employee Value Proposition, The People Deal) we become more attuned to each other’s unique contributions and strengths. It ensures our diverse perspectives and abilities are valued, welcomed, respected and heard.
Cisco is a place where my Noam could thrive.
And while, it’s true that we are not fully sure of Noam’s abilities yet, and there is still a way to go before he can become a full participating member in society – it is our goal as his parents (as it is for any parents) to get him there. Any open positions?
One thing I would like to leave readers with, please know that we are here for our colleagues. Perhaps a co-worker shares with you over coffee that they have a child with special needs, or perhaps you yourself may find yourself sitting across from a surgeon or pediatrician hearing some of the toughest words of all – we are here for you.
You have a safe space at Cisco.
Want to work for a company that embraces your family? We’re hiring. Apply now.
Are you a Cisco employee wanting to Learn More about CDAN and the Special Children’s Group?
Here’s a Video from Bring Your Special Kid to Work Day – Watch!
- Cisco` CDAN and the Special Children’s group gives you the information and support you need to help you manage life at work and at home. Cisco provides access to a counselling service with highly qualified professionals who can provide personal and emotional support to help you and your family members through life’s challenges.
- Want to Help the Special Children’s Group?
- We come together to share and support each other with real practical help and a listening ear.
- We arrange events like “Bring Your Special Kids to Work” all over the world (Bangalore, London, Raleigh and soon at our headquarters in San Jose!) to make special days for special children – and we need your help!
- How Can Cisconians Help? Volunteer! Volunteers can help us bring these special days to even more global sites. Additionally, volunteering to coach, mentor and support the growing technical skills of our children with the skills you bring to Cisco every day can aid families in tremendous ways.
- Find us and Reach Out – search “Cisco Special Children’s group” will get us or just type in any of more than 100 Childhood special needs and search will point you to us as the #1 link.