Why I Worry About My Daughter With Down Syndrome at School When She Has Limited Speech

Pete, Grandma, Grandpa and I spent yesterday morning at Hannah’s preschool for the end of year celebration. We finally got a glimpse of this secret life she’s been living since the end of February!

The transition to preschool has been a challenge for me, and it has nothing to do with PPTs and IEPs. Daycare has been my safe place for Hannah. I know the teachers, the other children and most of the parents. The “birth to 3” program staff had appointments there and could reassure me that Hannah was happy and well-cared for. Public school is a whole different ballgame. As a working mom, I don’t have the opportunity to do drop-off and pickup. I’m not able to chit-chat with parents. I don’t get to see Hannah’s classmates say hello to her. Until yesterday, I didn’t know a single child or parent and only knew the staff who attended the PPTs. I feel like an outsider to a big part of my child’s life.

Even though Hannah’s teacher and service providers have been great with communication, they can only speak to the moments they witness. The star of the show doesn’t provide much feedback. Every night at bedtime I ask Hannah about her day and the conversation is almost always the same:

Me: Did you have a good day today?
Hannah: Yeah!
Me: Who did you see at big girl school?
Hannah: [teacher’s name], [para’s name].
Me: Who else? What friends did you see?
Hannah: [preschool classmate], [unintelligible name], [daycare classmate]…A B C D E…

I’ve tried asking trick questions like, “did you have art today or did you go to the moon?” The response is usually the same enthusiastic yeah and occasionally blatant refusal to participate in my nosey-ness. It’s excruciating, as a parent, to have no idea if you’re child is enjoying school or not. To have no idea if she’s liked by her peers, if she’s excluded because she doesn’t talk to them, if she gets picked on. It’s excruciating to have little to no idea what your child thought or felt for half the day.

Image Credits: Lee Ulinskas

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