Babysitting Bridget

The Music Addition




Written by: Ellie

 Bridget, Cathy and I were on my front doorstep a few weekends ago, and Bridget was excited. I didn’t actually realize why until Cathy said the word “piano”. Immediately, Bridget began clapping and repeating “piano, piano!” The door opened, she reached towards the bench, and we could not put her down fast enough! She immediately picked out two or three keys to stroke repeatedly. Luckily with Bridget concentrating on her music, there was no trouble with mom leaving.

  The music she plays, although it is without substance, is amazing to me. It was as if while in her concentrated state, her brain just opened, using both hemispheres together. When she would take a break, I would point to a letter in the word Yamaha, inscribed on the piano, and she could tell me which letter it was. So, I would point to the Y and Bridget would say, “Y is for yak”. I was astonished at her sudden ability to spell. I believe that the music she enjoys, awakens her cognitive abilities and brings her other knowledge to the top of mind. All I know is she is a smart cookie, and that is for sure!

We eventually moved upstairs to what I am convinced is one of her favorite places on the planet—my thirteen-year-old sister Lucy’s room. It has something to do with the bounciness of Lucy’s bed. When we set Bridget up there, she immediately sits on her knees and bounces, and bounces, and bounces. And, when the iPod is blasting Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA”, she laughs and smiles and sings. Trust me, we have done this enough times to where she now knows every single word to the song. And the singing, well she will sing that song to her heart’s content. I don’t know how she does it, the bouncing, singing, laughing and smiling all at once. I’ve tried, and let’s just say after about the fourth bounce, I wasn’t feeling so great.

Despite her apparent disabilities, there is more to Bridget that many people don’t see. Unless she is truly comfortable, we often don’t see how brilliant she really is. And it’s funny that music, such a common pastime for us, can be a vehicle used to show how much she really knows. It is truly a beautiful thing!




Babysitting Bridget

Being a fifteen year old girl, there are many things you can expect me to say about myself. I am a dedicated student and a competitive athlete. I love to spend time with my friends and family, I am super involved in my church’s high school youth group. I babysit on the weekends for money and blog for UCP to earn volunteer hours. Often when people ask further about my work here at UCP, they question how I became involved. And that is a story all its own.       -Ellie

I started babysitting for Caroline and Bridget Candy (pictured above) when I was in sixth grade. Normally when I babysit for them, Caroline, who is best friends with my younger sister Markie, ends up hanging out at my house, while I watch Bridget at their house. It may seem easy, but it is no simple task. See, Bridget Candy, the daughter of UCP-OC CEO Cathy Collins, has cerebral palsy, as well as autism. Being a sixth grader when I started with Bridget, I didn’t really know what I was doing or whether I was doing anything right. Bridget would cry when she saw me walk through the door because she knew that meant mommy was leaving. The only remedy to cease her tears was…Barney. Who would have known that a purple dinosaur would become a sixth grader’s dream come true!? Bridget and I would sit on the floor clapping and singing along to Barney songs. Other times when I would watch her, she would be in a great mood; we would get along well, read books, laugh at her toys and sing random songs. I would take her on walks around the neighborhood, giving her pieces of grass, flower petals, and leaves for her to carefully examine.

Throughout my adventures with Bridget, I have discovered she is a genius, really. Bridget studied the leaves, flowers and blades of grass with such patience and care that you might just mistake her for a little botanist. After our walks we end up at my house and sit on my bed, bounce up and down, and laugh just for fun. Simply put: She was happy!

Then there were the other times…these times usually came when she was sick or didn’t get much sleep. She would fuss and cry because mommy had to run errands. I’m not going to lie… I would get pretty scared during these times. I remember thinking, ‘I’m not qualified to babysit her… what if I’m doing something wrong! What if I’m messing up her progress in therapy or something?’ But it was during these hard times when I would realize how much I was learning from my experience with Bridget.

First, I realized that I could handle a lot more than I ever thought I could. Secondly, I had a greater understanding of the patience and love that Miss Cathy and so many others constantly give Bridget. From the time I started with Bridget until now, our relationship had changed so much. She greets me By name now when I see her, she gives me hugs without trying to bite me or pinch me, and most encouragingly, she doesn’t cry as much or at all when she sees me. It had been fun for me to watch Bridget grow and improve in her speech and social skills. I cannot wait to see what is to come in the future!