Letter from Barbara
Whenever I go somewhere with my nine-year-old son, Mark, I enjoy seeing people take the time to speak to him. This includes children, teenagers, and adults, some friends, some strangers. He is making friends and establishing his place in our community. He is also helping to make the inclusion of people with disabilities in our society successful. Since he has Down syndrome, I do not take this accomplishment lightly, but am grateful to all the doctors, teachers, therapists, and other professionals who have contributed to his development. I completely agree with the statement, "It takes a village to raise a child." I think this is especially true for a child with disabilities.
I am also grateful to the children and adults who see his differences and challenges and go out of their way to include him in a social exchange. No matter how brief or insignificant these events might seem to others, they are very meaningful to Mark and me. Every interaction with a friend or stranger contributes to his social and communicative development. We now know that the more Mark interacts with people, the more language he will learn.
Mark has his friends at school who, having had the opportunity to get to know him for three years, now accept him as part of the third grade environment. They play with him and carry on conversations because they want to. This means a lot to a parent who wondered how he would be accepted when he left for his first day of kindergarten.
I find I am meeting more people because of him! Often when we go shopping, or to the library, or any of the other places mothers and children go, a parent and child stop to talk to him and introduce themselves to me. Because he is the first child with Down syndrome in our local school, he is known by everyone.
Helping a child with disabilities become social and interactive with others is probably the most important thing a teacher can do. Our children can live happily without knowing many school subjects, but they can not do so without friendships and the ability to get along with others.