Tuesday, January 3, 2012

#3 - Things I wish I'd known about Down Syndrome 6 years ago

Kids with DS can attend daycare and school with their typical peers
I remember being in the hospital and saying "If I have to quit my job and sell our house, this child will never have to go to daycare".  I know I said it because I pictured a special needs daycare that was the stereotype of an institution in a bad movie.  My awesome husband instead of saying "don't be crazy or don't you think thats a little extreme" responded something to the effect of "we'll do whatever we have to to make her happy".  When my maternity leave ended I was lucky enough to go back to work part time and be able to have in home care for the 6 weeks prior to and a month after her heart surgery.  This was more for me then her because I so was afraid for her to get sick prior to the heart surgery.  During that time I looked at lot of daycares, one special needs specific but most not.  Even though the special needs care was very nice it just seemed wrong for her.  A few of the daycares said they "couldn't care for her needs" - which is interesting looking back because they had no idea at that point what those were.  Then I found a beautiful place that didn't seem to give a second thought to her having DS.  They had never had a child with DS before but were just so open and caring we decided to give them a try.  Cate went to that learning center daycare with her typical peers and no special considerations, except finding her a private place to do therapy until she was 4 years old.  We loved it there, the staff loved her, and her playmates loved her.  My hasty prediction was completely false - daycare was the perfect place for Cate.  She is competitive so she wanted to do what the other kids did so I think it drove her to push herself. 

Daycare 3 yrs

When she was 4 we started full time at the public special needs pre-K a half day, with another half day in an inclusive Head Start class.   She did great - it was amazing how much she learned in "real" school.

1st day at PreK
Now Cate is a full fledged Kindergartener at our neighborhood public school.  I won't say it was easy to get her into a typical classroom with minimal support but it was well worth it.  And now the teacher, the prinicpal and the rest of the school know she belongs there too.  Her teacher says she is doing great socially, she is learning to read (we already have about 25 sight words down pat!), and in many areas keeping up with her class.  She was one of the first ones to memorize her complete address, city, county, state, country & continent!  I'm not naive, I realize there is a very good chance she won't be able to maintain this indefinelty, at some point she'll probably move to a part time special needs class, part time inclusion.  And you know what, that is OK.  I don't really worry about it too much anymore because Cate is happy, she is making friends,  she is learning, and  she has dreams of taking care of animals when she grows up.  Education isn't a scary prospect anymore, we are proud of her, she is proud of herself and we learned that is so much more important than any label.

First Day of Kindergarten - August 2011

1 comment:

  1. This gives me so much hope. Everleigh is currently in a typical daycare. They don't have any other kiddos with Ds but one little boy in her infant class has special needs as well (but I'm not sure what they are). I'm looking forward to her learning and growing along with some of these kids. And like you, I long for her to be fully inclusion-ed (LOL what a word) for as much and as long as possible. WTG Cate, you're paving the road for Everleigh and all others like you guys!