A special thank you to NDSS DS-AMBASSADOR™ Indrani Solomon from Tucson, Arizona for authoring today’s guest blog. Indrani is an amazing and tireless advocate for her son, Pranoy, and all people with Down syndrome!
They say a classroom is only as good as the child it does least for. So many of you would agree.
From what we understand as parents of a child with Down syndrome, students with I/DD need a solid education in life just like their neuro-typical peers, learning alongside their peers and contributing to society one day, just like their peers.
My son, Pranoy, was recognized by the Mayor and the Council-member of Oro Valley this year for promoting inclusion in the community, owing his recognition to NDSS for selecting his photo for the video at Times Square. I remember those meetings at the Town Hall where I would get to see individuals with Down syndrome in janitorial roles representing an agency through which they would get hired and I would walk in to talk about inclusion in the community. I was constantly reminded how lucky our children were to have parents like us believing in our children’s potential and helping build a brighter future for them. Even though it was all new to the Town officials, they still listened and are in the process of collaborating with NDSS to bring in inclusive programs that benefit residents with all abilities.
The resistance and the ignorance that I get to shatter one educator at a time takes up my day (and night) in many ways. But my husband and I are firm believers of collaboration and peace – doing this in steps, treading softly but surely while we win over hearts and minds.
This year, I asked Sara Weir to help me build this foundation at my son’s school by presenting to 4th and 5th graders. Her knowledge combined with her creativity in finding the most appropriate answers to so many hands raised (young and old) was such an amazing experience for each of us.
A lot of parents came forward to thank me for the presentation – proving these 4th and 5th grade students did share their experience at the dinner table. A couple of them wanted to know the type of Down syndrome Pranoy had. Some of them got to learn their own friends did not like science as much as they did. Some of them wanted to sit at lunch with Pranoy. The questions they asked and the answers Sara came up with made the school library a promising ground for future thinkers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, artists, activists, legislators, police officers – the list goes on.
What stuck with me was why the math teacher suddenly asked about the Alzheimer’s connection – primarily to think no matter what you do, Alzheimer’s kills this population sooner or later. While Tucson really has a lot of catching up to do, I wish I could change their perception somehow, after all, it is all about keeping the brain active and the heart happy from the get go – and that is what inclusion really is in a nutshell: acceptance and opportunities.
Pranoy’s basketball league coach wanted all eight kids back on his team next season so when I jokingly said that he was being brave by wanting someone kicking water bottles, back on his team again, his thoughtful response was, “that keeps me alert.” This speaks volumes especially when I am surrounded mostly by decision makers in the education field who want change but don’t want to change.
I count my blessings every day. Pranoy’s current reading teacher did not want him in his class a few years ago when she was teaching 2nd grade because she didn’t have the right support system to offer. Fast forward, she has become his favorite teacher, he’s now wanting us to invite her to a beach vacation. At collaboration meetings, she thinks out of the box paving the way for the other subject matter experts to think creatively and believe in Pranoy’s ability to learn as any other.
Thank you, Sara, for the awareness you have created here in Copper Creek Elementary. Even though we were faced with resistance and ignorance, please know that you emerged as a true leader in spreading love for all children with Down syndrome and helping peers understand how important it is to save for one’s future, embrace diversity and learn firsthand how all of us deserve the same chances in life amidst our differences.