May 30, 2006 8:07 AM
When it comes to Down syndrome, who's teaching whom?
Received this in the mail recently and got permission to share it here:
This was in a little booklet form that my friend's daughter Kaitlyn received from her 4th grade teacher and all her 4th grade classmates yesterday, the 2nd to the last day of school. The teacher had let the classmates know that 'Katie' would not be going into 5th grade with them and her classmates wanted to all do something special for Katie and this is what they came up with! It is just so beautiful, it needs to be passed on to those that know, love and teach our children with Down syndrome! *MANY are taught because of one child!! Enjoy! Nancy Harris PODS Angels
What we learned from Kaitlyn Pringle
Mrs. Stamps Fourth Grade Class 2005-2006
Katie has helped me learn that people with Down syndrome are just as cool as me. I did not think she was a capable as me but she is pretty cool. She has taught me do not judge a book by its cover. Thatâ€™s because in the inside she is actually really cool.
By Richard H.
I learned people with Down syndrome arenâ€™t different. Their abilities donâ€™t work like everyone. But that doesnâ€™t mean they canâ€™t learn or become a normal person. When she likes something she gets happy and laughs.
You have improved over the year. I think that Katie is very intelligent for a girl who has Down syndrome. I have taught her not to take someoneâ€™s food even if he offers her his or her food. I learned from Katie how girls with Down syndrome act/ I hope that Katie does really good next year.
Katie helped me by learning that even though she looks different on the outside she is still a regular person on the inside. But at first I did not really like her but now that itâ€™s almost the end of 4th grade she is really not different. She was just trying to learn from what we did but sometimes she copied us when we did something bad.
From your friend
I learned many things from Katie P. I have also taught her stuff. I helped by getting her to her bus on time, I also helped by reading with her in reading class. I taught her not to throw food in the cafeteria.
First, I helped Katie get her bus on time, She rides 989 she almost always rides the bus. She always asks me if I can take her to her bus.
Second, I helped her by reading with her in reading, We did a skit and she read with us. She didnâ€™t read the real story She just said words.
Third, I taught her not to throw food in the cafeteria. She threw food all the time. We told Mrs. Rowe. She stopped.
I think being in Katieâ€™s class helped me get to know her better.
Kaitlyn taught me that there are millions and billions of people on the earth. We are all the same. You should not single people out and say that they are different. We are all just people
By: Matthew S.
Iâ€™ve learned from Katie so many things but I think the most important thing is patience., I have learned that it takes patience to teach Katie something and ever since I met her I have done half the yelling at my younger sister. With my sister it takes so much patience to teach her something new. I am really happy I have met Katie.
I learned from Katie that people with Down syndrome are not different. At the beginning of the year I thought she was not a cool person. But now I think differently Just because she is different, nobody needs to treat her differently. She is just a human being like us.
Katie helped me understand that people with Down syndrome are like us in their own way.
I want to tell you about all I learned from you. At the first day of school I thought I was cool and I used to say â€œGet away from meâ€. But now I understand that you are a normal person like me. I certainly hope you learned something from me because I learned a lot of stuff from you.
Katie has taught me by making me realized that no matter how different she is she is still a very nice person. I think Mrs. P (her mom) was very thoughtful to let Katie be in around regular kids. Even though Katie is different she is still a human being so you have to be kind and treat her with respect. One time I helped her by finding her bus on the chalkboard. (She even thanked me once)
I learned from Katie that people with Down syndrome are not different from us. Katie is a good friend. She likes to hug people. She likes to be with her friends. I also learned from Katie to be patient with my friends and family. And to not yell at my brothers
By: Desiree S
You have learned something and we did too. You taught me not to move from seat to seat. I also helped you with lots of things, like finding a book. I also helped with your stuff at the end of the day.
You are a great girl. Please stay the same forever. Remember when Julia and I helped you walk faster and go faster in the bathroom? You are like us but slower. No matter what, Iâ€™m your friend.
We had good times. We had a good time in Kindergarten. You are a really good friend to me. We taught you how to be good, and you listened. I hope we have a good time on the last day of school. I learned from Katie that she has the same ability as me.
Thank you for teaching me to be nice to people. You made me realize over the 4 years that you are sweet. You are kind and Iâ€™m going to miss you. See you around.
By Alexie T.P.
Katie taught me she may be different but she is the same as us. Like sometimes, she walks slowly and leaves a gap in line. Sometimes she takes too much home. And sometimes she runs in the hallway. And every once in awhile she copies me.
Katie taught me she was the same as every one else but it just takes a while for her to learn. Like once she was doing the same thing as us it took her awhile for her to learn it.
Katie taught me not to treat people with Down syndrome any differently. Like at the beginning of the year I stayed far away from Katie. But now I know her better so I am fine and she is great. She is not different at all.
By: Elijah B
Katie has taught me things over the course of the year. She has taught me patience. She has taught me she is different. She has taught me she isnâ€™t something to be afraid of. She has taught me she is slower at some things than others. But she is still special
By: Kevin A.
You are the greatest friend. You have learned a lot of stuff when you came to the class. Do you remember when I took you to the bus? And I helped you catch up in line. All the enjoyable things I do for you are because you are the finest friend. The first day I saw you, I thought you were different than us. Now I know that you are just like us.
At the beginning of the year. I didnâ€™t like Katie because she looked different. But then I found out that she has DOWN SYNDROME. Itâ€™s when your brain forms differently than normal kidsâ€™ brain. It is hard to understand her, so you have to listen carefully.
What I learned from Katie is that kids with DOWN SYNDROME have it hard. So you have to make sure you are nice to kids with DOWN SYNDORME. But it is nice having her in the class.
By: Brooke P.
Kaitlyn taught me how people with Down syndrome are like regular people. But she needs help but to remember not to ignore her. She is a nice person and she might give you a hug in line. She might even slow down the line a little bit, but thatâ€™s OK because thatâ€™s her thing, So not push her she is like us.
Dear Katie and Mrs. P (her mom)
The thing I learned from Katie is even though she has Down syndrome she is like everyone else. She can do what she can do it just takes longer for her to learn these things. Thereâ€™s other things that I didnâ€™t understand like why she looks so different? Anther thing is, why is she happy and smiling all the time? But I understand not that this is the way she is and that I have to accept and get to know her.
Thereâ€™s another thing that she taught me and everyone else is that we have to be patient with her. And that what we do she is going to do and we have to show her good examples. What if we started acting mean to people and disrespectful in front of her? She is going to do it too and then we have to teach her all over again about these things and set better examples. If we donâ€™t she is going to do it when she is older and if we baby her she is not going to learn how not to do things.
Katie taught us a lot and she taught me that just because she looks different doesnâ€™t mean she is that different. Everyone is different and looks different in a lot of ways.
So I wanted to say thank you Mrs. P for bringing Katie to our class. I had a great time with her and matured a lot because of her. I love Katie, Sheâ€™s so sweet. I wish she could be in my class next year.
Thank you Mrs. P and you Katie
By: Manushka G
Katie has Down syndrome. But she has taught us a lot. The thing O learned is that people with Down syndrome arenâ€™t that bad, but of course she has times when thereâ€™s a gap in the line or times when she hugs. In the beginning she did every single day. Now it slowed down. I will miss Katie but she is in a good place.
By: Katelyn D.
Over the year I learned that if you have Down syndrome that you are not different from anybody else. I enjoyed you this year!
Just a few decades ago, the normal place for a child with Down syndrome to end up was in an institution - if they survived the hospital. I say "if they survived" because sometimes children with DS are born with heart or bowel problems that require immediate surgery. Of my kids, both Jonny and Justin needed surgeries to survive.
As recently as 1982, two parents who did not want to raise a child with Down syndrome allowed their baby to die in the hospital rather than granting permission for the operation he needed. This was in Bloomington, Indiana and the baby was never given a name. The parents' identity was protected by the courts which allowed the baby to die. We know him now as the Bloomington Baby or Baby Doe.
Since then, the world has become a more humane place for children with Down syndrome, whose right to life has been protected and whose right to an education has placed them in public schools working side-by-side with their "normal" peers.
As I quickly learned when Jonny entered school, it wasn't all about Jonny reaching his potential, but about his classmates and teachers reaching theirs. Many years I have received notes from teachers detailing how the presence of my sons with Down syndrome (for people new here, I have four - since Jonny was born, we've adopted three more) has made a difference in the lives of their children.
In a column for World Magazine called "My Little Extra" , I wrote:
Remember when cynics presented a blind man to Jesus and asked who had sinned, the man or his parents, that the man had been born blind? Jesus answered that neither had sinned, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life" (John 9:1-3). Usually we understand this passage to mean that the work of God would be displayed when Jesus enabled the blind man to see. But maybe it means just what it says: The work of God would be displayed "in his life."
That blind man was once a baby and a growing boy. For years his needs had had an impact on his family, his friends, his teachers, his community. Surely the work of God was being revealed each day in the growing compassion and wisdom of those who might otherwise have remained stuck in their own self-centeredness.
God doesn't waste a life he has given. I know as surely as I know each dimple on Jonathan's cheeks that God has used that 21st chromosome to give me more than I would ever have asked for. He offered me a little extra. I'm thankful for that.
That was in 1997. My experience continues to affirm that God has a special plan for our kids with Down syndrome. We just need to follow where that leads us. For our family that has meant public school. No matter what criticisms are leveled at public schools, you must admit that they have been true agents of change in eliminating barriers for children with disabilities - just as they once were the starting point for breaking down racial prejudice.
When children are introduced to kids with disabilities at an early age, they are liberated from the fear and standoffishness we so often experience with people with differing abilities. In a society which celebrates physical appearance and intellectual achievement, they learn to appreciate the other qualities which make us human - and lovable.
In fact, for all the positives there are about homeschooling, there remains that stronghold which has not been overcome - how to inject an appreciation for diversity in children when they do not have opportunities to rub elbows with kids of different races and abilities. Just a side note and food for thought. . . .
Kaitlyn's classmates have certainly discovered many of the things God would like us all to discover about these children he designed with an extra chromosome. I thank him every day that I had the privilege of discovering it too.
Wow, I did'nt make it through that post without shedding tears. It was nice to see things from a child's perspective. I am finding it hard to explain why our son is different, to children to ask why he does not talk, why he is so small, why he still wears pull-ups when he is 8 years old, etc.
This is part of the reason that I homeschool, I suppose it is my way of protecting him. The major reason that I homeschool though, is because of the way the holidays are represented in the classroom. Here in our area of Canada, they make a huge deal about Halloween, Santa, Easter Bunny, etc. We teach our son the real meaning of the holidays and present the other characters as stories (because someone ALWAYS asks what Santa brought him!)
I must say, this post has opened my mind to the remote possibility of letting Christian attend public school sometime in the future.
Thanks Barbara, I always find your posts thought provoking. I am so glad I found this site, it is one of my first stops every morning. Keep up the great work!
Posted by: Bryanne | May 30, 2006 9:19 AM
what a beautiful tribute from some beautiful people!
How lucky all those children were to be in that class together!
I remember the baby Doe case. back then I recall feeling outrage although I was a young single 20 something with not even a trace of family or children on my mind. It still chilled me to think parents would throw away a child just because it was less that their ideal. Who would have thought it would still happen even in this day and now folks still speak of the parents right to do so. I can't begin to tell you how many times folks have said that to me when we first adopted Daniel.
God bless Miss Katie and everyone whose lives she graces!
Posted by: Laura | May 30, 2006 9:46 AM
My dd has grown up around lots of children and adults who are "different" and it amazes everyone except those of us who know her well how indifferent she is to physical appearances etc.
I think the issue of home schooled kids being "sheltered" from difference is fairly easy to get arround if someone close is willing to make just a small effort. For us it is part of life as we are all British Red Cross members so serve people with quite diverse needs and dd has come along with us from being very tiny
Posted by: t-bird | May 30, 2006 2:58 PM
If my cousin, Billy Joe had lived, he would be 21 this year. He had Down's...and a sweeter boy couldn't be found. He died at 13 from lukemia.
But, although he was in public school, he did not have the reaction this young girl did. He was a "problem" and an "inconvienience". Luckily my aunt was quite the advocate for her son. After lots of work she had him placed appropriately and with a teacher who thought him a blessing and not an extra annoyance.
I am a public school teacher now. Although I haven't taught anyone with Down's yet, I did teach a mentally retarded girl this year. I must say she was a breath of fresh air. And my students (some rather low economic, disadvantaged children)treated her marvelously! She was class favorite for sure!!
Thank you for sharing this story. I loved it!
Posted by: Bethany | May 30, 2006 5:09 PM
This is easy for us because two of our children ARE special needs! :) I think most conscientious (spelling?) homeschoolers do try and make sure their children have opportunities to be around people from all walks of life. My kids have been drug to doctors appointments, therapy appointments and so on and so forth for three and a half years now, my eldest doesn't even flinch anymore. They're all people, just the same to her...just packaged differently.
Posted by: Lindsey | May 30, 2006 8:50 PM
This is a wonderful tribute to not only Katie, but her teacher as well. She had to have had a great impact on all of the children in that classroom, especially when it came to how they treated their classmate!
It's a wonderful post and I so appreciate your sharing it!
But I am sad to see this interjected within:
"In fact, for all the positives there are about homeschooling, there remains that stronghold which has not been overcome - how to inject an appreciation for diversity in children when they do not have opportunities to rub elbows with kids of different races and abilities. Just a side note and food for thought. . . ."
I suppose there are homeschooling families who never have a chance to "rub elbows" as such - but in my experience (limited as it is, I admit) it is the rarity and certainly not the "norm."
Not only do my children have opportunity to "socialize" with children of different races and abilities, they have many more opportunity to "socialize" with people of all AGES of different race and ability than your average public-schooled children. (I taught public school for many years, so I can testify to that somewhat.)
In our chapel, my girls worship and fellowship weekly with men, women, and children of many different races ~ from India, Egypt, Korea, and the Phillipines. They sing in nursing homes and afterward we walk around and talk to men and women who are incapable of response, who live in worlds of their own, who are missing legs, arms, and eyes, and who cuddle baby dolls of their own.
Having taught in the very school system my children would attend should they go to public school, I can attest to the fact that their experience is far richer and more diverse for the many opportunities they would have there. We've more time and energy to minister to, be friends with, and really invest in the lives of people of not only diverse ability and race - but age, as well. We simply would not have that kind of time if my children stepped onto the bus at 8 each morning and arrived home at 3:30 or 4.
While I do see this as something to consider as a homeschooling parent, I hardly think it constitutes a "stronghold" in the homeschool community.
Thank you for the food for thought - the entire post is such!
Posted by: ADDMama | May 31, 2006 10:34 AM
ADDMama - as a writer, I write from my experience. I homeschooled my kids exclusively for many years. Right now my kids with Down syndrome are in public school where they are accepted warmly and each treated as "one of the gang."
I am a member of a fairly large church with predominately homeschooled families. Actually, ours is the only family Iknow of that is not homeschooled. Here the kids seem not to know how to connect with my Down syndrome kids at all and we are pretty isolated as a family. I don't take it personally because I understand the limitations. But the burden is on us to somehow overcome the barriers. As a parent who's taken on extra responsibility, I would definitely prefer in the best of all possible worlds that other families would see this as a learning opportunity, but so far that does not seem to be the case - with the exception of one family who has taken an interest in Jonny and invited him to go hiking, etc.
I don't know why you have an emotional reaction to my statement. I am not an outsider looking in or someone who doesn't appreciate the value of homeschool. But I would say from years of observation that your family is unique because you have created opportunities for your kids to be exposed to people with different abilities. I hope that if my children walked into your church that their experience would translate into more non-controlled situations too.
I'm not saying this is an argument against homeschooling. But I do see it as a stronghold within the Christian community, just as for years racism was a stronghold - there is no denying that.
Many Christian parents of kids with disabilities have felt the same isolation within their churches, believe me. If any of you readers have families with kids with disabilities in your congregation, I'd like to challenge you to reach out to the parents and to invite such families to spend time with yours.
I am a strong believer in people and institutions striving to improve at all times. Defensiveness never leads to improvement. And being angry or sad at the messenger doesn't change reality at all, nor the call of the messenger to deliver the message.
Posted by: barbaracurtis | May 31, 2006 11:52 AM
Oh, my. I am so sorry. I truly did not mean to be defensive, though I in retrospect suppose I was. We know, and have known, so many homeschooling families who are not at all as you described, though. I did admit my experience was limited!
Your experiences did not mesh with my own, so this seemed so very foreign an idea to me! I am so very sorry as a homeschooler, as a mama, as a Christian that your experience and that of others with children with disabilities has been so much less than I would hope. Than I would expect. That makes my heart sad, too. (Much, much more so than a blanket statement about homeschoolers! Blanket statements about any group make me sad. Right or wrong, it simply bothers me to not allow for an exception to "the rule.")
Emotions don't change reality - you are so very right. But why write if we do not wish to stir something in someone - be it their heart or their head? For me, and a few other odd ducks like me, an emotional response translates into comtemplation and prayer, and contemplation and prayer then translate into action.
In the first case, the action was simply sharing my own experience. The next issue (which you describe so well) will take much more contemplation and much, much prayer, for it is a serious issue, indeed. A completely foreign concept to me, in fact, as I said.
So I will be praying ~ not simply for change, but for how God might use me and my family in the process should He so choose. With willing hearts and willing hands I ask (humbly, I hope) - what else can families like ours do?
Posted by: ADDMama | May 31, 2006 2:00 PM