Another Piece of the Inclusion Puzzle: Thank You, Parents

Many pieces must all fit together in order for inclusion to work well. The school team and their willingness to provide the supports necessary immediately come to mind. Then there is a child’s desire to be in a general education classroom and how well the general education classroom fosters their ability to achieve their goals. But, an equally important piece of the puzzle, is the other kids and their parents.

Recently, there was an ignorant letter circling the internet. A parent of a “typically developing” child didn’t want her child around a developmentally delayed friend and asked the parent to keep their child away from hers.

Anytime this type of ignorance is brought to light, run through the full gamut of negative emotions including anger, fear, and sadness. Ultimately, I end up with a  pit in my stomach and more questions than usual about the true feelings of the other parents in my son’s class. I start to question how they really feel about my son being in their child’s classroom and whether or not they see his immense value. I keep this in the back of my mind and use it as a reason to build a wall around my heart.

Fortunately, my son’s classmates and their parents continue to give me many reasons to break down that wall and trust that they genuinely appreciate my son and love him for the kind, charismatic, good friend that he is. Their attitudes and what they teach their children are a piece of the inclusion puzzle I don’t ever take for granted.

This weekend we attended our first birthday party for a classmate. It was for one of my son’s good friends that always makes sure he is included. Meeting this sweet friend’s mom reminded of the truly amazing parents that do exist. Words can’t do justice to the gratitude in my heart, but I will try to convey my appreciation because all hard-working, kind parents should be recognized. I see you; and I know that your caring parenting is making the world a more safe, positive place for my son.

I am grateful to parents that are raising children who refuse to let a classmate eat alone. To the parents whose daughter always watches out for her peers and makes sure everybody is included; thank you! To the parents raising a son who asks everybody to join the game so nobody will have to stand on the sidelines alone, I salute you! For all the parents that have kids that use kind and encouraging words with their peers and never put anybody down for their differences; high five. For the parents that don’t “shhhh” their kids when they point out differences, but instead take the time to talk with their kids and teach them that our differences are what make the world an interesting and better place, you are making a positive impact. And for all parents that understand your kids are watching and model inclusive, kind behavior, job well done! Thank you for taking the time and working hard to raise kids with kind hearts and open-minds.

From a parent that has to rely heavily on the jobs that other parents are doing in order for my child to be included and celebrated for his talents; from the bottom of my heart, I thank you!

Being the parent of a child with Down syndrome can be a vulnerable and lonely place. From this place, I have developed a deep appreciation for great parenting. I have to rely on the work of other parents so my child will be given the opportunities he deserves to reach his fullest potential and that can be terrifying (especially for a control freak like me). But quality parents help to ease my nerves and give me hope for the future.

In the new year and beyond, let’s all keep working hardest at our most important job; parents. It isn’t easy, but with our attentive and kind parenting today, we are changing the world for our kids and giving them a brighter future. I promise to always teach each of my children, kindness first. After all, we are all in this together!


What a Difference a Year Makes

It’s incredible the difference a year can make. At the beginning of last year, we had no idea where Jackson would be going to school in the fall, what our journey to inclusion would look like, or whether or not Jackson would even have the opportunity to participate in a general education classroom. Just thinking about kindergarten made my palms sweat and my heart race. I felt a constant sense of helplessness regarding our inclusion journey; regardless of how much we did, there was the possibility we would hear “no” and it wouldn’t be something we could change. I would remind myself, anything worth having isn’t easy. In my mind, it’s a simple equation, hard work + perseverance + passion= success. I knew that in the case of inclusion, there are many factors in play that were out of our control and that was the hardest part.

Looking back on last year, Jackson was unsure of his abilities. Today, he exudes a sense of confidence and seeks to do more things on his own. 2017 was a year of growth. Despite some ups and downs and bumps in the road, Jackson is exactly where he needs to be: at his home school, included. It seems there is always something new to learn or work with his school team to address, but we collaborate and find solutions together.

Best of all, Jackson is thriving! Of course, he has days where his participation is down or he says “all done” several times during the school day. There are still times when he and I feel overwhelmed. But each time he is a part of a classroom or school activity that I know he wouldn’t have the opportunity to participate in otherwise, my heart fills with joy. Those are the moments Jackson enjoys the most; being a part of the school community.

We took a huge leap of faith. We listened to our guts and what Jackson had been showing us his whole life; he loves to be a part of the action. He wants to be involved. He won’t choose to be challenged but when he is, he rises to the occasion every time.


Prior to this year, we haven’t been able to put our finger on exactly what it is that makes Jackson work so hard for some people and refuse to do anything for others. We finally realized the magic ingredient that a person must possess to motivate Jackson to give his best. I can’t believe we didn’t realize it before, it was always right there in front of us the whole time: BELIEF. Anybody working with Jackson must BELIEVE in him, BELIEVE in what he can achieve and BELIEVE that he will accomplish his goals.

We are fortunate to have a team of people around Jackson that do believe in the world of possibilities that exists for him. Every day, they challenge him because they know he can do it! All that BELIEF has rubbed off on Jackson and he has started to believe more in himself. As a result, his confidence, independence, and abilities have soared. In 2018, I resolve to continue to push those boundaries for Jackson. We will more fully engage with his school family. I will stop thinking about what is out of my control and look for ways to best handle what is in our control.

Last year, I was told that I couldn’t do it alone. Basically, that I wasn’t the best advocate for my own son and that I needed to hire a formal “advocate.” Initially, those words scared me, but then they motivated me.

Through the course this year, I have realized that with additional education, the help of other parents in the Down syndrome community, research, time, dedication and a collaborative approach, I am the best advocate for Jackson. I needed to BELIEVE in myself. I have always believed in Jackson but in order to be the best mom (and advocate for him), I had to believe in myself.

And, I BELIEVE in each of you to be the best advocates for your child (until they become their own best advocates, self-advocates are the BEST!) We know our kids best and we know what they need. That’s our superpower. We can do this!

Here’s to a Happy, healthy New Year for all filled with more inclusion, goals achieved and collaboration!