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Celebrating as My Son With Down Syndrome Graduates From High School

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Congratulations, my sweet son. Graduation Day has arrived!

Sitting here with tears pouring down my cheeks, I can’t help but reflect on how beautiful this journey of inclusion in Catholic school has been.

To see prayers incorporated into a high school graduation ceremony fills my heart and soul and I believe without a doubt, Jesus is in the house!

We realize now, as we look back, how much God has been with us, always by our side.
Every time a door would shut in our face, God found a way, a path of inclusion, an open window.

When multiple schools said no to accepting my son, God would bring another opportunity we hadn’t thought of, or had been unaware of to try.

This journey has been filled with moments of joy but still, moments of chaos and heartbreak hover at the edges.

This journey has been gracefully filled with theology classes and school mass, but also includes doubters and a broken few, who refused to see how talented and smart my son is.

The struggles are hard for a parent of a child with disabilities. As a parent, you constantly struggle with:

Have I done enough?

Am I saying the right thing?

Am I bringing enough resources?

Does my child have the tools he needs?

What else can I do to help?

This stress brings countless sleepless nights that most parents don’t experience or understand.

I would bolt up in bed at night thinking about new ideas we could try.

I would cry myself to sleep at night, praying the teacher would see the gifts my child does have, instead of what they believe he is missing, and see how he is created perfectly in God’s eyes.

I would cry to my friends on Friday and Saturday nights knowing that my child is home with me, having not been invited to the school parties and events.

I would question how someone who is Catholic can try to segregate my child.

I would question how someone who is Catholic can see my child as “not enough” instead of seeing his gifts and talents.

I would question how someone who is Catholic can say no to letting my child attend their school.

Jesus said, “Children, come to me!” He did not add, “Except for those over there — they should attend a separate school.”

My child is brave!

My child is actually super cool and an awesome person.

My child is super intuitive and smart in ways that tests don’t show.

My child is funny and hilarious when you take the time to get to know him.

My child has this big huge kind and amazing heart that makes him an amazing friend.

My child is created by God, perfectly imperfect in God’s own vision.

God is good! And every time we doubted and struggled, he brought us what we needed.

A friend would have an inspiring story to tell and a shoulder to lean on.

A simple kind email from a teacher would carry us for weeks, knowing someone was truly “getting” him.

My heart would leap in joy from a selfie my son would text, with fellow students, knowing he was finding moments of happiness in school.

A hug from our principal/staff would show us that we were in the right place, and calm my momma’s heart.

The journey has been beautiful!

The journey has been filled with exciting twists and turns that we didn’t foresee.

The journey has brought people with stunningly beautiful hearts into our lives.

The journey has brought us unexpected community and friendships that we will have forever.

The journey has been filled with faith, and I am thankful that my heart was open to allowing God to guide us and show us the way.

We pray we have created a path for others to follow.

We pray our Catholic educators will open their hearts and learn more about UDL and new teaching strategies.

We pray our Catholic administrators will open their doors to see the impact that students like my son can create at your school.

We pray our Catholic leaders will see how beautiful this journey has been, and seek resources to do it too.

We pray that Catholics everywhere will request and support children with exceptional abilities into their schools.

We pray that Catholic schools everywhere will open their hearts and see how the student body is changed when the students grow from their experiences of empathy, patience, caring and love of all.

Originally published: June 9, 2021
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