Every year as October approaches I try to come up with fun ways to celebrate. In the past I have inundated friends and family on Facebook with various facts about Ds and too many Ellie pics. I've visited the boy's school and read books. Our favorite one to give to the class is 47 Strings. Some other great choices are The Courage to Be Kind and We'll Paint the Octopus Red. We always wear our cute advocacy shirts. There are a ton of wonderful businesses who make Down syndrome awareness shirts, I'll list a few here (please note I am not getting free stuff for saying this!)
Reeve's Tees (Homies Shirts!)
Gabe the Babe & Co (Advocate, Educate, Celebrate Shirts, 47>46)
Littlest Warrior (Be Kind ASL Shirt, The Lucky Few)
This year I decided it would be fun to do a school visit for all three kids now that Ellie is a Husky like her big bros! And I wanted to show a video in each class instead of reading a book.
First stop was supposed to be Ellie's preschool class, but she was sick! So instead I sent in a copy of 47 Strings as well as the adorable cartoon called Everyone Counts: My Friend Isabelle which I thought helped explain Down syndrome in an easy way for 3 and 4 year olds. It's so cute! I had planned on giving out multi-colored goldfish, reiterating how the fish are all shaped the same but are all beautiful different colors. Just like us, although we are all different, we are still all the same. Those are still sitting in my kitchen, I plan on making a class visit in November.
My friend Cathleen who blogs over at Foursmalls used the concept from the One Page Profile and made an awesome info sheet about her cutie Sam for school! I loved it so much so I decided to make one for Ellie too. Her teacher will send a copy home with each child so their parents can also talk to them about Ellie. Here it is, and below I'll share the template for anyone who would like to use it! If it seems odd that I'm sharing the template, it's because the One Pager received a lot of attention and I have spent the past few months walking people through making their own. I finally figured out an easy way to share the template, as you can see below. I have also updated the One Pager post with the same, if you need a template for that for your IEP, IFSP, Transition Meetings, etc.
Here's the link to the template (save yourself a copy in order to edit, instructions below!)
DS Awareness Month Poster Template
And instructions to save your own copy:
Our first stop was Luke's 3rd Grade class with Ellie in tow. A friend of mine said "so in other words you brought her in like show and tell?" And yes, I did, and it was very impactful for the kids to meet her in person, play with her, read with her, and get to know her. I have one word for this experience... tears. I decided to let my boys choose what we would show to the class, and Luke chose the video "True Colors" by Matty B. His class had already read 47 Strings, so I started off by telling them how Matty B has a sis with Down syndrome just like Luke. Many of the kids knew of Matty B, and were excited to watch the video. Once the video stopped and I turned on the lights, over half of the class was in tears. They were so touched by the message. They ended the visit by singing "If your happy and you know it" and Ellie lead the class. I teared up too many times to count.
In Will's 5th grade class, he asked that we show the video "Just Like You". This one is a longer video but was great for this age group. I started off this presentation by explaining who I was, that it was DS Awareness Month and I introduced Ellie as Will's little sis. I let them watch the video first, and told them they could ask me anything about Down syndrome and that there were no bad questions. These kids could have asked me questions all day, and they had some great thought-provoking questions. For example, one boy asked if Ellie had a baby, if the baby would have Down syndrome. I told them it's a 50/50 chance. Another boy raised his hand and said "so if her baby has Down syndrome and it has a baby, what are it's chances of having Down syndrome?" I probably looked like a deer in the headlights, and Will's teacher joked "that would make you a great grandma!". The kids loved asking "what is a chromosome?", "what is the r-word?", "is Down syndrome contagious?".
Last year the boys gave their friends something that reminded them of their sis, so Will chose "Extra" gum to represent the extra chromosome and Luke chose "Sweettarts" to represent Ellie. That one makes me giggle because I always say Ellie is like a Sour Patch Kid, first she's sour then she's sweet. Boy is that the truth! So this year I asked again, and they said "something sweet!!!", so we picked Hostess cupcakes and twinkies. Costco has a box of 32 for $6.99 and they are Halloween themed so the kids were totally excited! Sorry teachers.
What I have come to realize in the almost 5 years I've been Ellie's mom, is that Down syndrome is something that you don't understand until you do. Sounds silly, right? But when I first started talking to the kid's classes when Ellie was just a tiny baby, they had no idea what it meant to have Down syndrome. I'm watching first-hand as the kids are growing up, how they now "get it". I walked through that school that day and kids from other classes were yelling "hi Ellie!!" and wanting to talk to her and high five her. Down syndrome isn't scary and these kids love her for who she is. As she enters this school in the future, the kids will all know her already. They will understand why low tone makes it harder for her to hold her pencil, or talk clearly to her friends. But they will also understand that Down syndrome is a part of her and that she is awesome just the way she is.
As I was writing this post Jesse walked by and read the title and sang it just like Montell. So you guessed it, I have to add the song to this post for your listening pleasure, and sorry if it's in your head now!
This Is How We Do It - Montell Jordan