A commenter in yesterday's post asked if I did a presentation to Kayla's class when she was in Kindergarten. (I couldn't find a way to contact you directly, so I'm doing a post about what I've done for the past few years.)
I know some parents send a letter to all the parents from their kid's classroom at the beginning of the year. They explain their child has Ds and what that means for them, and that they are still part of the classroom etc. I know for the parents that have sent it they always say it is a very positive thing and they usually get many responses back. I've never done the letter. I've always had mixed feelings about it. I don't want to single Kayla out even more by having a letter go to her classmates' parents all about her and her diagnosis. Although I can see how it could open the lines of communication between her classmates and their parents. It's just that no other parent in the classroom sends out a letter about their child and what issues they may or may not have in the classroom.
I didn't speak to Kayla's class when she was in Kindergarten. No specific reason! I think mainly it was because I didn't know what to say and I'm not comfortable speaking in front of a group of people ... even if they were only 5 years old! But I realized that never gets easier for me - whether they are 5 years old or 10 years old!
Several years ago the NDSS offered a kit called "Everybody Counts" and it included a VHS tape (that's how long ago it was created!), a poster, and teacher lesson plans and activity sheets that were separated by grades. In 1st grade I gave Kayla's teacher the VHS to show to the class and the teacher materials. In hindsight, I probably should have been in the classroom when the teacher showed the video and not have left her to do it alone and handle any questions that came up, but for some reason I wasn't there. I figured it was a cute, short video on a friendship where one child has Ds and the other doesn't. The teacher said they did have a little discussion afterwards and it went well. The video - My Friend Isabelle - is online. I think this would be very appropriate to show to a Kindergarten class.
The NDSS doesn't have this kit anymore but they do have a "Get To Know Me" poster and accompanying lesson plans for grades K-2 and 3-5.
In 2nd grade I finally got up the nerve to speak to Kayla's class! I emailed the teacher this photograph of Kayla's chromosomes and she put it up on the smart board. I talked to them about the chromosomes in our body, what they mean, and pointed out that Kayla had that extra one on the 21st chromosome. I talked a little bit about how that affects her. Then I read the book Meet Annie. Each page describes something about Annie - her likes (baby dolls and balls), getting in trouble (for eating a cookie before dinner), being afraid (of the dark), sometimes messing up and needing help, and asks a question of the reader. "Do you sometimes get in trouble too? Are you ever afraid? Do you need help?" When I read this book and asked those questions I also asked it to the class so they were participating and raising their hands about what they needed help with, what their favorite food was etc.
In 3rd grade I did the same thing with the picture of Kayla's chromosomes and a brief explanation. I also pointed out ways Kayla was like them, and ways that we are all alike and different from each other. I asked the class several questions like "Who has been on an airplane? Who has been overseas? Who likes popcorn? Who likes the beach? Who likes roller coasters?" Her classmates were watching Kayla to see which questions she raised her hand. The book I read last year was High Fives and a Big Heart. The book is written and illustrated by a 4th grade class about their classmate Jeffrey, who has Down syndrome. The book is the second book from Mikayla's Voice.
For this year I'm going to talk with Kayla's teacher about showing the video in yesterday's post, again showing the picture of her chromosomes (I think the visual of those being the actual chromosomes from inside her body is something neat to show the kids.) I am also going to use my explanation to Lucas in the "Chromosome Talk" about how the extra chromosome also means extra material in her brain and why it takes her longer to learn things.
Since the discussion about Down syndrome, and Kayla, includes the ways that it makes things harder for her to do, I think this year I am also going to make this about all the neat things that have happened to Kayla because she has Down syndrome, and some things that have happened but have nothing to do with Down syndrome ... but just let the moment be about her and let her shine.
Neat things like:
- Her pictures are in the British Journal of Hospital Medicine for an article on "The Eye and Down's Syndrome (it is apostrophe s in the U.K.).
- Then those eyes became a bit more famous when she was the grand prize winner ($25K scholarship!) in Prevent Blindness America's Most Beautiful Eyes contest. She didn't win this because she has Down syndrome, but she does have beautiful eyes because she has Down syndrome. She has beautiful Brushfield spots in her eyes, and the almond shape is flattering on her!
- A picture of her was used in a poster from the Oregon Council on Development Disabilities for their I Have a Voice self-advocate/awareness poster.
- She's twice had her picture up on the Jumbotron in Times Square for the NYC Buddy Walk.
- She's thrown out the "first pitch" for the Charleston RiverDogs and befriended a (now former) pitcher.
- She was a model in the Global Down Syndrome Foundation's Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show and walked the runway with supermodel Beverly Johnson.
And a couple of neat things that had nothing to do with Down syndrome:
- She is in the National Military Family Association's pamphlet "Toolkit About Military Kids."
- Kayla (and Lucas) were in a back-to-school fashion article from the Lowcountry Parent Magazine.
This post is also linked up with the IDSC's Taking Down Syndrome to School blog hop.