I had the chance to speak to John Michael's Kindergarten class today about Down syndrome (I don't think I actually used the term Down syndrome), how everyone is different, and that differences are what make the world such a great place. I also read the book, "My Friend Isabelle" by Eliza Woloson to the class. The kids were fantastic! Very quiet and attentive as they sat on the colored rug and I sat in the teacher's rocking chair.
I asked if anyone had questions, but at this age, they just wanted to tell me about their own siblings or friends... It was cute! One boy said his big brother is faster than him, but his feet were bigger. Another boy said that he is faster than his baby sister, who is 2 years old. Haha. Then one girl, right in front, said, "John Michael taught me how to dance." That totally warmed my heart. I'm not so sure what he taught her, but he does love to shake his booty and dance. I was also thrilled to know that he felt comfortable enough to do that at school...
I said my good-byes and the teacher sent an email with the letter (you can click to enlarge), as well as send home a hard-copy of the letter.
What's so amazing is that John Michael is the first boy with Down syndrome to attend this Catholic school. He has older siblings who've graduated from there and one sister who is in 3rd grade this year. The community loves and supports him and I often hear great things about John Michael. Sometimes, he gets in trouble, too. He was sent to the office today for kicking kids on the rug. He had a time out, but couldn't resist scooting his chair closer so he could continue to kick. Sigh. His teacher sent him to the office for some time away and she said he had a great day the rest of the day. Yay!
So, he made it through his first week of Catholic school, fully included without an aide. We are looking for a part time aide to support him in the classroom as things get more difficult for him. But for now, I will mark his first week as a HUGE SUCCESS!!!
Within 2 hours of the letter going out via email, I already had 4 lovely responses from parents in the classroom thanking me for taking the time to write the letter and share about John Michael, opening up dialogue right away. It's a win-win. The letter isn't something I wrote on my own, though, so I want to give credit where credit is due. A huge THANK YOU to Gillian Marchenko, author and mom to Polly with Ds, for sharing the letter on her blog for all of us to copy and use. http://www.gillianmarchenko.com/inrtoducing-your-kid-to-the-class-school-take-home-sheet-for-child-with-down-syndrome/
And if you check out her website and blog, there some great links for you to read on the sidebar as well, like 10 Things Not to Say to a New Parent of a Child with Down syndrome. :-) http://www.gillianmarchenko.com/ten-things-not-to-say-to-a-new-parent-of-a-child-with-down-syndrome/
Before I left, I asked the kids to be John Michael's buddies on campus. Everyone wants friends and he might need a little help sometimes. At least half the class said they would (that's a great start!) These kids will grow up with John Michael and Ds will be "no big deal" to them. Two boys, fraternal twins, have already told me that they want to be John Michael's friends. Soooo sweet. I feel so blessed!!
Stick around awhile and you'll see I'm all about educating parents who wouldn't otherwise know these things. Because 6 years ago, I was that parent... and no one took time to share these tips with me... so I'm paying it forward.
Have an awesome day!