How was the First Day?

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, unnamedGrace’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.

6 comments on “How was the First Day?
  1. Joy, Your story about Grace’s first experiences in her new school was so heartwarming It also was a Ya Ha moment for me knowing how many baby steps it has taken over the last 35 years to reach the point of

  2. Whoops! Continued……. things seemingly being lined up for Grace to experience the success she deserves in an inclusive setting.

    Since this is the beginning of a brand new school for Grace I would love it if, from time to time, you would let us know how its going. Perhaps even with some back and forth dialogue we could make some small contributions during the journey of the next 178 days.

    Betsy and I are signing on as cheer leaders.

    Good luck Grace. Here’s hoping that this is the beginning of a great middle school year.

    • How exciting for Grace, to be once again in setting where she can be herself and thrive. For those lucky enough to know her, this is not surprising! What a loss for West Essex administrators and teachers and the students who have lost their chance to get to know her.
      Huge Kudos to you and JIm for staying strong and being great parents. Cypress Ave will never be the same without you all but we could not be happier for Grace.

  3. What a wonderful story! I’m so glad that Grace had such a great first day!

    My Paul also had a great first day in middle school, ,but in our town, we feel we are fighting a very steep uphill battle to keep him in the inclusive placement that he has had since pre-school. We have talked about the possibility of moving and would love some information on towns/school districts which embrace inclusion.

    Thanks for any help you can provide.


  4. Joy- Sooo sorry that things did not work out for Grace at West Essex but sooo happy to hear that she found a new school and had a great first day. Grace is an awesome kid. Inclusion in our elementary schools was great for her thanks to our amazing teachers. All that being said, Grace has become this special amazing person thanks to the undying love and support of you, her incredible mother who has loved her and advocated for her at every turn. Grace has been your special blessing and you have been hers!!! I am hopeful that Grace will continue to soar on this new adventure. How can she not….she has you, her incredible mom in her corner!! Best of luck to you both!!

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