When I Was Told My Daughter With Down Syndrome Would Be a Disruption


Since my first article “When a Learning Center Said They Weren’t ‘Equipped for Down Syndrome,’” I’ve had many people ask me, “So what ended up happening?” People wanted to know if we had pursued my daughter Zoey’s “right” to be given a chance. They wanted to know if the learning center had a change of heart. They wanted to know if Zoey was now attending the classes, and if so, how was she doing? The more questions I got, the more I realized that a follow-up story might be a good idea.

I had high hopes I would end up writing a story about how this establishment, and ultimately the teacher, had given my daughter a chance. The outcome didn’t matter as much to me — did she do “well enough” to continue — as much as whether Zoey would be given a chance at the learning center. I’m sad to say that chance never came.

Zoey’s school got involved (we “homeschool” via a home study public charter school). They also felt what the learning center told me — “We aren’t equipped for Down syndrome” — wasn’t right. Several people were on her side and stuck up for her and rooted for her, saying she deserves a chance.

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The goal was to set up an opportunity for Zoey to attend classes for one day this semester. While there she would be observed by our school staff so if an aide was needed to attend these classes next year, they could provide one. I was also told that for the day they would supervise so the teacher could stay focused on the class.

This time, it was the actual teacher of the class corresponding with school staff. I don’t have all the details, but what I know is this: We were told the class isn’t set up for special needs, and Zoey would be a disruption to the class. Again, these people know nothing about my daughter beyond that she has Down syndrome with some developmental delays.

Is this what my daughter will face for the rest of her life? Will she be rejected over and over purely by her diagnosis of Down syndrome? Deemed a “disruption?” If that’s the way it’s going to be, then I’m suiting up and preparing for battle because that’s not OK with me. I will advocate for her. I will continue to hope and pray that people would look beyond Down syndrome. I want people to see Zoey for who she is.

There’s one more thing I would like to address: Every person with Down syndrome is different just as you and I are different. Having Down syndrome doesn’t mean “we’re all the same.” Every baby, child and adult with Down syndrome has their own strengths and their own challenges.

We happen to know several children (who happen to have Down syndrome) who are included in classes and sports of all sorts and are more than capable of listening, following directions and learning! I mention this only to reiterate how important it is not to make assumptions based on a person’s diagnosis! I absolutely recognize that there are also children with Down syndrome who may not be ready for structured classes.

But please consider this: If they’re never given a chance, how can they ever improve? You can’t achieve something without being given the opportunity to work on and develop skills.

No, Zoey isn’t attending the learning center classes, and it’s not likely she will ever attend that particular learning center. I want my daughter to be viewed and embraced as an individual. I want her opportunities to be positive experiences that inspire her learning!

So so we will press on and find those opportunities for her. We’re all learning along the way thanks to one amazing little girl, Zoey Grace.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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