January 24, 2018

To My Son with Down Syndrome On Your First Day Of School

information preschool children with down syndrome disabilities early intervention public school inclusion

This Down syndrome blog post is a letter to my son with Down syndrome on his first day of starting public preschool- Down syndrome public preschool.

Dear Anderson,

Today is your first day of school. It’s a big day for any kid. It’s an even bigger day for you. Because you have Down syndrome, your day came sooner. You are only three-years-old and will be going to public school five days a week; something your big sister has yet to do. But I think you need it, I think you want it, so I’m letting go.

I spent most of yesterday worrying. I wasn’t sure if you’d understand getting on the school bus so early in the morning. I talked to you about it, I showed you pictures, we sang The Wheels on the Bus a dozen times. Before you went to bed, you surprised me when you said, “ ‘cool buh”. You said it- you knew!

The test came when the big flashing yellow bus pulled up to our home. I thought you would be scared; hesitant at least. But like you so often do, you showed me my fears were unfounded as you practically leaped from my arms and up those big brown stairs.

I watched you buckle in your tiny frame and wave goodbye like it was no big deal. But to me—it was monumental. I gasped for air as you drove away. Fat tears streamed down my face, but they didn’t fall for the reason I would have guessed. I wasn’t scared for you, I was proud of you.

I am so proud of you.

Today is the first of many days in your school career. I know some things will be more difficult for you than the other kids sitting in circle time. But my love, if you tackle those things with the same gumption you showed today on your very first day, it will be enough. 

You are enough.

I believe your future is bright. Mine is certainly brighter because you are in it.

So, here’s what I want you to know: try your best, always. Keep proving my fears wrong and show others who have preconceived notions of what you are, just who you are. Learn as much as you can and please don’t stop teaching me along the way.

Read more school stories: Inclusion is the Reason My Son Started Walkingand Why I’m Letting Go of my Child with Down Syndrome

January 18, 2018

Inclusion is the Reason My Son Started Walking

down syndrome preschool inclusion

This Down syndrome blog post is about our first experience with inclusion. Down syndrome preschool inclusion

Earlier this year I felt a kind of panic well up inside of me that I had never experienced before. I was worried and anxious about my son Anderson’s development. Anderson has Down syndrome.

I knew Anderson was capable of walking, but he didn’t want to. He hit a plateau with speech and occupational therapy was his least favorite.

I had just completed six months of advocacy courses through Partners in Policymaking. I wrote an article on Inclusion that went viral and yet because I was a stay-at-home mom, it didn’t dawn on me to start the inclusion process. He had only just turned two.

For three weeks, I dropped him off at pre-school and then went to my car and cried. I remember being sad dropping off my typically developing daughter at school for the first time, but this was different. 

I often say that parenting a child with Down syndrome is life intensified, the highs are higher, the lows are lower, and the angst that hung between the ignition and me was thick.

But I kept taking him because of what happened on his first day. He walked at school.

He kept walking at school even though he wouldn’t do it at home. Inclusion was working. He was the only non-walker in his class and that was the motivation he needed to start taking his first steps.

Unfortunately, he could only stay at that school for three months because we were moving. So, I would drop him off at school and then research new preschools that would not only take him but wanted him.

I found one. The director was genuinely excited to have their first child with Down syndrome. Anderson had been at his new school for two months when I approached his teacher about his development. She said, “He puts his head down when I try to get him to talk, but at circle time and lunch time, he starts ‘talking’ and answering questions.”

Inclusion was working. It is working. 

It’s not only working for Anderson, but also for those around him. I told his teacher that I might be pulling him from school later this month because we are having our first IEP meeting at our neighborhood public school. She cried.

He’s the only kid in his class who doesn’t talk in sentences and has very few full words. Yet, words aren’t needed to build a friendship. I linger around the gate to catch him laughing and hugging his friends.

Us adults can provide Anderson the tools, but it’s his peers who will motivate him to use them.

Tomorrow we have our first IEP meeting. It’s the first of many in our future and I can feel that thick angst hanging over me again.

I observed the classroom twice, Anderson will be the youngest, by far the smallest and the most behind. I thought about waiting. I thought about keeping him in his environment a little longer.

What if he’s not ready?

But what if he is? I realized I couldn’t be the one to stand in his way.

Inclusion is how he took his first steps, and it will be how he continues to walk into a future that is his own.

Want more articles on inclusion? Read more under advocacy

Some may read this and wonder- why move him if we are happy with where Anderson is at? We could only find a two-day program for Anderson. With public school, he will go five days a week. He will also receive additional speech therapy on top of his private therapy. We will only put him in public school if we get the inclusive placement we want. We are bringing an advocate to our meeting and we are hopeful that we will get the placement and the services we want.




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January 16, 2018

Sesame Street Birthday Party

Sesame Street birthday party facebook (1)This is a blog post about a Sesame Street Birthday Party- get ideas for your next Sesame Street or Elmo birthday party below. Read my birthday letter to Anderson- here.

Our son Anderson is what I like to call a Sesame Street Fanatic. He has to watch his favorite show every morning- it’s like his version of a cup of coffee. And you know what? I don’t mind. There’s a reason this show has been around since before I was a kid- it’s just good. 

Anderson is learning to count and more because of Sesame Street (video here), so I’m just as big of a fan as he is. There was no question about his birthday party theme this year- the only question was how to make it happen. Anderson is a New Year’s Eve baby. Since we were gone for Christmas, we had to throw the party at my brother’s house. 

All it took was a couple of Pinterest searches, a trip to two stores and a handful of helpers the morning of the party and voila– we ended up pulling this thing off!

Pin It:
Sesame Street birthday party pin1

Let’s start with the main area. We used punch balloons instead of real balloons to hang over the island. I loved how this turned out! It saved money from buying a bunch of real balloons and the kids ended up playing with them later in the day. We also used a green polka-dot tablecloth and blue polka dot napkins and red-striped straws. 
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We also turned the food into decorations. We made these adorable Elmo and Cookie Monser Cupcakes using orange gumballs for the nose, halved Oreos for the mouth and googly eyes for both characters.

elmo cupcakes cookie monser cupcakes
We made an Elmo Face fruit tray with strawberries, yogurt dip and blueberries. We taped a party hat on top of the plate.

elmo fruit tray birthday party
The next part is my favorite- the games. My mom happened to buy Anderson a stuffed Count Von Count for Christmas. So, I made “The Count’s Number Toss Game”. 

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Sesame Street birthday party game the count

We cheated on the next one. I wasn’t sure how to do a “Pin the nose on Elmo” with a limited amount of time. My mom saw this Nylon balloon, we bought it without getting it inflated, taped it to poster board and used orange plates for the kids to pin on.

Pin It:

Sesame Street birthday party game ideas pin the nose on elmo
That’s it! I wasn’t sure how it would all turn out since we put it together pretty quickly, but I was thrilled with the final product. Anderson enjoyed his third birthday party and so did all of his cousins and that’s really all we could have asked for!

Sesame Street birthday party pin1
Need other party ideas? Check out this football themed birthday party or this Minnie Mouse themed birthday party.

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