It’s a new school year and most of us parents ask each other “how was the first day”? A lot seems to ride on the first day. We take pictures; we wait anxiously to find out if our child had a good day. Did they like their teachers? Who did they see? How are their friends? If the child comes home happy, it is going to be a good year…even if there are 179 more days to go.
This year we transitioned into a new school, a new town, and a new home. It was a decision fueled by the desire and commitment for an inclusive education for our daughter Grace who has Down syndrome. She has been educated with her typical peers since preschool and soared every year. She has won over doubting teachers, skeptical parents, and made lasting friendships with peers who accept and embrace her for who she is. Hitting a road block in middle school, Grace’s right to be included was being chipped away and while Grace continued to be the little engine that could, the tracks below her started to fall apart. So we went back to what has always worked for her, an inclusive setting and we found a school and town that welcomed her and offered possibilities.
Sometime in this whole inclusion process you wonder if you are doing the right thing. Is it worth the pursuit of an inclusive education and community? What will the outcome be? Where will we be at the magic age of 21? While none of us have a crystal ball, my daughter Grace assured me today we had made the right move by continuing to advocate for her inclusive education. As I waited for her to come off the bus from her overnight trip, a parent chaperone stopped me to tell me she had been with Grace at camp. That’s right, school started with an overnight at camp. She proceeded to tell me what a great sense of humor my daughter had, how smart she was, how comfortable she was with girls in her cabin and how comfortable she was with herself. This woman had never met a child with Down syndrome before and Grace had really impressed her with all the possibilities. Of course I was proud but it was an affirmation to all those years of being included and Grace soaring because of it. Soon Grace got off the bus; first a hug for mom, a reminder not to embarrass her by asking too many questions, and music to my ears at this new school in our new town, a good bye being called out by a friend Grace had made at camp.
179 days to go…but we are looking good.