A letter to my child (Circa December 1995)
From Can't to Yes I Can
Minutes after we heard Brandon’s diagnosis we looked at each other and I said “Teresa, we don’t know what the future holds, but Brandon will have the best life that we can give him”. As parents, our initial goal is to accept the diagnosis then begin the process of gathering information from those who went before us.
After gathering intelligence you quickly learn the best places to hang out and meet your new community of parents, children, and adults who have Down Syndrome. Seventeen years ago, we found the best locations to be bowling alley’s, bus stops, doctor offices, early intervention places, and today the internet. The reason Teresa and I did this was to find individuals who were socially appropriate, and begin to talk with their parents starting with “What did you do in the beginning?”
The first opportunity we had to sharpen our skills was early on when Brandon by default was placed in a Special Education preschool for severely disabled children where most of the learning was related to life skills. When we dropped him off, the teacher strained herself to turn her neck to greet Brandon because she was on her computer. We gave it a couple of months until we said “NO” to them. We were told by two individuals in the community to get him out of there and he had no business in that remedial class. We were prepared to meet at the Superintendent level because it wasn’t a good fit. They let him out and into a Speech and Language delayed class where we had to walk past the former teacher every day. It was worth it because we knew it was in Brandon’s best interest. I met with the Superintendent after Brandon successfully completed this great class with a teacher who stretched him in the S&L areas. He was her first child with DS in 23 years, because no one prior to us challenged the school to let their child in. Because of a label, most schools automatically think of our kids as “severe”, and they are never given a chance to recognize their greater potential.
This experience set the stage and readied us for a lifelong challenge of getting Brandon into other activities, sports, and inclusive academic environments. Some situations worked, some didn’t. We took the best from each experience and learned from it to ensure our future success. It's a careful dance to offer suggestions and modifications, but you know your child best. After a challenging Kindergarten experience, we decided to move out of the area. From 1st grade to the present year our administrators and teachers have embraced Brandon; it’s been a great ride. He loves school, begins and ends each day with a smile and skip in his step.