Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Day for Education and Advocacy with Fantastic Fourth Graders!

if i knew exactly how to do the "happy dance," i would be doing it right now!   what a nice surprise.....forrest just came home from school loaded down with some terrific "stuff"!  last week, forrest's teacher, ms.allen, allowed me to bring wyatt and talk to their 4th grade class about Down syndrome. i was thrilled, and a little nervous, to have this opportunity! the kids were so attentive and respectful....they already knew wyatt from our visits in their class for parties, but not all of them knew that he had Down syndrome.  in fact, one of forrest's good friends is adam, whose mom is wyatt's physical therapist, joanna.   that morning joanna told adam that i would be in class talking about Down syndrome and wyatt, and even adam was surprised!  he never realized that wyatt has Ds; he knew that his mom got to "play" with wyatt every week, but didn't realize why!  that was quite funny to both joanna and me!

i took the opportunity to read the books we'll paint the octopus red, and its sequel, the best worst brother written by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen. i actually had to borrow those books from my friend carol, and i'm so glad i did!  they really helped me talk to the kids about Ds!   i shared many facts about Ds, and those books have great question and answer sections in the back that were quite helpful!   i also received some great advice and materials from amy allison, the executive director of the Down syndrome guild of greater kansas city.   i had the kids cover their ears with their hands while i whispered to them to show how it's sometimes hard for kids with Ds to hear, especially if they have fluid in their ears.   i also gave each child a large marshmallow to put in their mouths, and then had them try to tell their neighbor their name and favorite color, to explain sometimes how hard it is for kids with Ds to speak, due to the size of their tongues, shape of their jawbone, etc.   the kids really enjoyed the interactive time.....and i know it helped them remember some specific details about Ds! 

the day i shared with their class also happened to be "spread the word to end the word" day, and you can bet that i took that opportunity to talk to the kids about committing to not using the "r" word...and why i didn't want them to use it!   some of them seemed surprised to learn that using that word was hurtful to us! 

all in all, it was an awesome experience, and i'm so thankful that forrest's teacher was open to me sharing!   she also had the kids write 5 sentences about Ds as a homework assignment.  and i didn't realize that they had made posters that they put on the walls outside their classroom, with facts about Ds, the buddy walk,  "spread the word," etc.   these are the posters that forrest brought home this afternoon:

aren't they awesome?

i also gave the kids bookmarks with wyatt's picture on them that say "Friends Don't Count Chromosomes" and a little more information, including asking them to be a friend to someone like wyatt as well! 
and ms. allen also had the kids write thank you notes to me and wyatt.....they are so sweet, and full of the information that i gave them!   and creative as well!   here's the pic of these beautiful cards!   what a blessing!  i'm so thankful for ms. allen, and her willingness and desire to teach her kids about Down syndrome.  i do hope that the kids will remember that wyatt is "more alike than different!"

so very precious and beautiful!  


  1. Wow, Penny, that's awesome! Gave me chills to read how responsive the children were. Great job!!

  2. Super cool Penny!! I love that story.

  3. Soooo cool! Did you use your laminator for the bookmarks? I hope so, those are keepers! So glad that turned our so well for you. Still working on the homeschool group presentation. Will talk more when you get back from Spring Break! Great job friend!

  4. That's great! I love your ways of helping them understand the difficulties.

  5. That is so very cool, Penny! I cry alot when I talk about River. NOT because his Dx makes me sad, but becuz I feel super protecitve of him. But I feel that educating people is so important. Good job!