My son attends an elementary school with 900+ students. That is six times larger than the elementary school my other kids attended. There are lots and lots of kids at this school.
Each morning we get in line to drop the kids off. I'm not a big fan of this process--we spend so much time waiting in line each day to drop of and pick up kids from school. We drop our daughter off right in front of the entrance then drive down to take our son to the gym where the kids in his grade meet each morning.
Today, a blond-haired boy walked with us. He knew my son by name and said hi to him. He told me all about himself on the way to the gym. When my son walked into the gym, he was met with kids waving at him and calling out his name. Everyone knows his name and kids talk to him and pat him on the back all the time. He's kind of the resident rock star.
Of course, they know his speech is not as developed as theirs, so he struggles to verbally communicate, but they don't seem to care. They seem to like him despite his challenges. One boy in particular is always by him, always helping him if he needs it, and always has a big smile on his face when he sees my son. This boy has taken my son under his wing and he is so, so sweet.
At this age, the kids are so accepting. They see my son as part of their class and part of their school experience.
Back in the day, kids like my son were separated from the general population. They didn't interact with typical kids. Fortunately, we've learned that in order to break down barriers and foster understanding we need to include kids with special needs in everyday situations, including school.
Numerous studies indicate that where a child with special needs is included, it not only benefits that child with special needs, but also benefits the other children and teaches those children things they cannot learn any other way. The kids that interact with my son are learning so much from him and he is learning so much from them. I am grateful he has the chance to interact with all of these kids.
And I am grateful for the kids who go the extra mile. The kids who play with him. The kids that invite him to play dates. The kids that just see him as another kid, because that's what he is.
A child with Down syndrome is still a child who wants to be loved, to have friends, and to enjoy life. A child with Down syndrome has gifts, talents, fears, strengths, weaknesses, dreams. A child with Down syndrome may look a little different or do some things differently, but he or she is a child first and foremost.