What Inclusion Is to Me as the Mother of a Child With Down Syndrome
Something beautiful happened this year: my daughter started kindergarten. My 5-year-old with Down syndrome walked into a general education kindergarten classroom.
Our journey began two years ago at her preschool. They set her up for success. The elementary school followed suit and fully included her in the classroom. Not only did they include her, they met with me several times. They set up her schedule and went to great extents to make sure it was appropriate and would work for her.
The IEP meetings were not scary. The people I worked with weren’t hateful or negative. They were supportive. They were positive. It was everything I dreamed it could be. It was a blessing.
Sending a child to kindergarten is scary. Sending a child with a disability is terrifying.
Perhaps the fear comes from how our society views people with disabilities. Maybe I was more scared because the fear of rejection has always been there. Fear that my child might be turned away because she’s not easy to deal with.
Many parents don’t have the kind of experience I had. For that, I am so sorry.
But, I’d like to share with you what inclusion is to me.
Since the beginning of last year, Lila has affectionately named her class, “my kids.” She thrives on social interaction. She loves her kids. Inclusion, for her, is everything.
Inclusion is excitement and joy. It is, “Momma, I go to the cafeteria with my kids.”
Inclusion is a learning experience for everyone, “Mom, that is my new friend, Lila.”
Inclusion brings laughter and sometimes a bit of chaos, “I sorry Mrs. Roberts. I won’t do that again.”
Inclusion fosters acceptance and independence, “She sat with the kids at circle time the full 30 minutes, I was so proud.”
Inclusion is beautiful.
Every morning Lila wakes up with: “I go to kindergarten, I see my kids!”
Walking away that first day (as she sat at her desk coloring), I couldn’t help but get emotional. This is every parent’s dream…that their child will be right there with everyone else experiencing life.
I’m forever changed by the experiences I’ve had as her mother.
I believe that she’s changing perceptions and people every day.
A child with a disability being included with everyone else may not be a big deal to you. However, for me, it exemplifies what I wish I could see everywhere.
It shows how far we’ve come from where we were. From institutions at birth, to living, working and thriving among everyone else.
What an awesome step in the right direction.
I’m thankful for the way inclusion is changing our lives and the lives of people in our community.
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