During our several IEP meetings in Kayla's 3rd grade year, one of the more common points the school team made was that Kayla seemed to identify more with, and prefer to be with, students who were younger than her. While they said that she did seem to get along well with her same-age peers in her classroom too, overall they felt she was more comfortable with kids in the younger grades because they were more on her cognitive level.
I'm not denying that Kayla isn't cognitively like a 10 year old, but I never refer to her as being, "10 years old, but more like a X yr old." She's Kayla, 10 years old."
Throughout those meetings we stressed that it was still important for her to be educated with her same-age peers because she needed to learn from her same-age peer group. It would not be appropriate for her to be placed in a 1st grade classroom (and she's already repeated Kindergarten). If we want her to learn how to be age-appropriate she needs to be with same-age peers; or else she will continue to learn and act much younger than her age.
I felt even more strongly about this after reading an article from Kathie Snow's Disability is Natural website. (Scroll down to Developmental Age vs Chronological Age.)
She makes several good points, among them: "Children who do not have disabilities are all over the map in their development. A 10 year old may read like a 13 year old, play soccer like a 16 year old, and behave like an 8 year old - and he's considered 'normal'! Then there are adults without disabilities, like myself: at the age of 51, I routinely vacillate between acting like a 10-, 20-, and an 80 year old. But no one ever puts a developmental age on me. Why, then, do we do this to people with disabilities?" and "If he's six, he needs to be surrounded by other 6 year olds so he'll learn how to be six. Keeping him with 4 year olds will only encourage him to remain like a 4 year old."
I'm not saying that a child of one age can't play and be around kids who are older or younger; it's good to have a variety of age groups playing together and that plays out in neighborhoods everywhere- including my own. There is a 5th grader a few houses down and he will play with both Kayla and Lucas when they are all outside. Does anyone say he shouldn't be playing with Lucas because Lucas is in Kindergarten? The girl across the street is in 2nd grade and she also plays with Kayla and Lucas. But to put a child with a disability in a class of students a couple of grades/years younger so they are spending the majority of their time with that younger age-set? That is a different story.
I am aware that Kayla does prefer some things that are younger than her age, but I don't encourage it. For example, she would watch the preschool show Sophia the First if I let her. But I don't. Because it is made for preschoolers. There are probably some cartons and animated shows that 10 year olds do watch, but those are not preschool shows. If Kayla is going to be around her age-group, she needs to learn how to be a 10 year old and communicate about things 10 year olds communicate about - and Sophia the First is not one of them. Frozen, yes; Sophia, no.
I've noticed a theme in a lot of articles highlighting an adult with a disability; and that theme is the author seems to make it a point to bring attention to something the person with a disability is doing, watching, wearing, or saying, that is more on the level of something a child would be doing. One article in particular that I remember was about an adult female with Down syndrome. It described her as wearing her favorite Tinkerbell sweatshirt and coloring in a Tinkerbell coloring book. My take on that part of the article was the author was painting this picture of this woman as much younger than her age. Did that matter for the article? Did it contribute? I don't think it did. I don't think it was necessary to include that information at all. In fact, so what if she was wearing a Tinkerbell sweatshirt? They make Disney clothing in adult sizes. There are adults without disabilities who wear Tinkerbell clothing. I have seen cars with Tinkerbell stickers/logos on the back windshield.
And then there are the times when there is an event advertised for families who have children with disabilities, and the activities are geared towards younger children - yet people bring adults with disabilities out to these events as well. Just because the event advertises for people with disabilities doesn't mean it's age-appropriate for adults with disabilities as well.
There was an Easter event planned between 2 organizations. I was surprised at the number of eggs they were needing for this event and asked if they really thought that many kids would be there. The person from one organization had told the person from the other organization that she expected a lot of adults would be coming out for this Easter Egg hunt. I admit to being surprised. Really? Adults? For an Easter Egg Hunt? Just because they have a disability doesn't mean they have to do activities that are geared towards children. Just because they have a disability doesn't mean they need to be treated like children and brought to events and activities that are obviously meant for children.
The disability community is vast and encompasses all ranges of disability and ages. But events do not have to be all-inclusive and just throw everyone with a disability into an event when all the activities are arranged for the younger age group. It is fine to have an all-ages event ... but then the activities should reflect something age-appropriate for the adults as well.
Or if an organization is having a holiday event where the activities are traditionally meant for kids; they could have the older age group be volunteers and help out with the event and assist the younger kids with their activities. Let them be older teenagers or adults, let them be their age. Don't keep having them do activities that are meant for children. Don't keep treating them much younger than they are.
When Kayla is in her 20s I can not see myself bringing her to an Easter Egg hunt, or bringing her to see Santa. It just isn't age-appropriate.