It’s hard to believe it’s been almost three years since Noah first started to school (and we wrote our first letter to his teachers)…time really does fly!
A lots changed in those three years. Noah has a new little brother. He was grown in leaps and bounds. We moved to a new city. And Noah started a new school while we were on the waiting list for the school that he started today. Noah now attends a private Christian school that is 100% inclusive for the entire day (in fact, I believe Noah is the only child with special needs in his class.) At 11:50 the (short) bus comes and picks him up and takes him to our public school’s PPCD program (which is a program for children with special needs) and then brings him back at 3 pm. He is doing really well and really having a blast learning and interacting with his peers. We are so proud of our little boy.
My wife stayed up late last night working on a letter to send to school with Noah today at the private school he’ll be attending, and I’ve attached that letter below for anyone that may be interested in reading it. Feel free to share it / pass along.
I would like to take a moment to help introduce you to Noah. First of all we are so excited for him to be a part of your class. We know that he can present some challenges, but I think you will find that he is a welcomed addition to your room. He is able to wrap most teachers around his finger and the kids end up giving lots of hugs by the end of the day.
Noah has down syndrome, which means that he has an extra copy of his 21st chromosome. I don’t know if you have had the pleasure of knowing someone with Down syndrome, so I hope that you don’t mind if I tell you a little bit about what the means. Noah has certain characteristics which are common for children who have Down syndrome including upslanted eyes, low set ears, and being smaller than you would expect for someone his age. He also has hypotonia which means that he feels floppy. This however doesn’t mean that he is weak. He has developmental delays as well. His biggest battle right now is learning to talk. He has a lot to say but it is difficult to decipher. He knows several signs and has a growing vocabulary. He has difficulty putting words together in a sentence but is very good at “I want”. He works with a speech therapist and occupational therapist weekly. He will not be present on most Wednesdays because we will be at therapy.
He attends the preschool program for children with disabilities at [a local elementary] in the afternoons. The bus will pick him up and drop him off. He seems to really enjoy it, with his favorite part being the bus. When he started this program, it caused him to start skipping his nap. While he can survive without a nap, we did notice that he was a bit more sensitive to his friends and if frustrated would act out against them with pushing or biting. I think he was trying to communicate that he was tired. It is something to just be aware of when he returns in the afternoon.
He does really well in a group setting. He will mimic the behaviors of others and usually wants to do what his friends are doing. He is quite stubborn but understands choices. If you give him two options he will usually choose one. Distraction works for him as well. As mentioned he can be quite stubborn initially but with patience he will usually start doing what is being requested of him even it involves just sitting quietly with him for a moment. We understand more than anyone how easy it is to cave and let him do what he wants, however we hope you expect of him what you would expect of other children. His difficulty with language makes you think of him as much younger and that he doesn’t understand, however he understands the majority of what is said to him. If he does something he shouldn’t he will say I am sorry. He also knows thank you and please.
It is hard to know exactly what he understands when it comes to his letters, colors and shapes. He can match them easily, but he will not say them when asked. He will repeat what you say, but will not say them spontaneously on his own. He has difficulty with fine motor skills so has only recently started drawing circles. He works on these tasks with his occupational therapist. If you help him hold his pencil/pen he can do a much better job of tracing and writing letters, but on his own is just starting to be able to do this. He is also just starting to work on using scissors which is a difficult task for his hands. Repetition is very helpful for him. When it comes to songs, if you are a bit patient and slow it down he will try his best to keep up and do the hand movements and what not.
One challenge for us is potty training. He will go on the potty, however he has a hard time realizing that he needs to go. He does pretty good with a schedule. He however has come to enjoy putting his clothes in the toilet, so you will want to keep an eye on him. He finds it fun to change clothes, so he knows that if they are wet he gets to do that. While if his clothes are soaking, we understand changing, but feel free to leave him a little bit wet so he doesn’t keep doing it. We will start in pull ups here but we have a stockpile of underwear ready.
Down syndrome is only part of our son and we hope you get to know other parts of him as well. He loves books, trains and cars. He is a big fan of Buzz Lightyear right now and has always loved Mickey Mouse. He knows all the parts of Mary Poppins and Frozen. He loves to give hugs and has a contagious smile and laugh. Our view can be reflected in the way that we talk in that he is a child with Down syndrome and not a Down’s child. We refer to a child without delays as typical rather than normal.
We are happy to answer any questions you may have and are here to assist him in any way you think is needed. I hope these tips about him help you understand him a bit better. We again are so thankful that he gets to be a part of this classroom and are excited to see how he grows.
Abbie and Rick