In honor of Developmental Disability Awareness month, we publish this guest post from Ben’s mom.
We moved to a new community just before my son started nursery school at age 3. The nursery school had a large, fun, bright class and everyone involved was thrilled. A wonderful year went by and Ben moved up to the four-year-olds group. A new child joined the class. I chose not to tell Ben much and see how he reacted.
After the first day, I asked how everything went, and my son voiced his frustration with Oren, the new boy. He explained that even though Oren has Becca (his aide) with him, he’s all over the place and knocks down everyone’s block towers. After a couple of days of this type of frustration on Ben’s side, I decided to sit him down and have a discussion. “Ben, do you know why Oren has a tough time learning how to behave in the class?” I continued with a four-year-old explanation of Down Syndrome. Ben was spellbound.
And so went pre-K, with frustration, with the kids, the teacher and the aide constantly explaining, both to Oren and to the other children about thoughtful, considerate and positive behavior on all sides. Slowly, Ben’s complaints about Oren’s behavior lessened. Oren remained with the class through senior kindergarten as well. At every class performance, we parents burst with pride, both at our own child’s performance, and at seeing the huge steps that Oren had worked so hard to reach.
What’s more, as much as I noticed that Oren had learned to participate, co-operate with others and answer relevant questions, I’d also noticed that Ben had learned to accept the quirks of others. He had more patience for his siblings. He’d learned to identify some of his own short fallings.
Becca has accompanied Oren to first grade, still in the same class with Ben. While my children are not morning people, we get our spiritual morning coffee by meeting up with Oren at the school bus stop every morning. Because Oren, you see, is a cheerful bundle of energy nearly every day. There are three bus stops in our neighborhood. One of the biggest boys in the school lives across the street from the second bus stop, but he has chosen to climb uphill to our bus stop to help Oren to school every day. While Oren greets every child with his smile and high-fives, he then accepts help from the other children to get onto the school bus.
Oren being mainstreamed into a regular classroom has benefited not only my son, but indeed the entire neighborhood. The children here have learned the values of taking time to understand others. They have learned to look at everything positively. They have learned that there is something to learn from everyone. They have learned that even if something is very, very difficult, just like learning new things is for Oren, if they work really hard like he does, they can do anything, just like Oren.