You’ve Got a Friend in Me

child with down syndrome first grade friendship

Noah’s Buddy, Stella

As a parent, when your child walks in the doors of a school building on their first day, one of your desires for them is to be accepted and loved by their peers. You hope your little boy or girl will make friends and have a good experience. This is especially true for parents of children with Down syndrome.

Noah looks different than other children. He can’t communicate as well. He isn’t potty trained. He isn’t as fast or as strong, etc, etc..So you can imagine last year when Noah started Kindergarten (at a public school, surrounded by typical kids) some of the worries / fears / emotions going through our mind.

We have seen God do some amazing things in the life of “little” Noah. One of them is the way He has provided so many wonderful friends for our son. If you’re a parent of a child with special needs whose child hasn’t started school yet, you may have some of the same fears we had. If that’s the case I want to encourage you; the kids at Noah’s school have been so kind, loving and accepting to Noah.

A New Friendship

Last year when Noah started Kindergarten a little girl named Stella befriended him. Noah would come home and we would hear him say the name “Stella: frequently. She had declared him her best friend who is a boy and became his helper in the class. The best part about this is that it was before my wife had gone into class to talk to them about Noah and the differences they may see. (Which I need to blog about some day!)

Stella and many others had already fully embraced Noah as a friend and part of their class. Their friendship is really sweet. This year, as he started first grade not only where they in the same class, but they started the school year off sitting side by side!

meet the teacher public school child with special needs

It’s been really sweet watching the two of them become friends. Recently I dropped Noah off at school and she grabbed Noah’s hand and walked into school with him. #Awesome

girl walking into school with a child with Down syndrome

Walking into school!

A Trip to Six Flags

We’ve gotten the chance to get know Stella’s parents as well and yesterday Noah and I got to go to Six Flags (one of Noah’s favorite places) with Stella and her dad. We had a blast!

friends at six flags

Hanging out at Six Flags

children at the frosty snow hill at six flags

Just finished going down the Snow Hill!

child with special needs at holiday in the park six flags

Holiday in the Park

Noah is a bit shorter than the typical first grader, so Stella pushed the gas for Noah as Noah drove! 🙂

down syndrome boy and girl at six flags

Riding the antique carsboy and girl riding antique cars at six flags

boy with special needs at six flags over Texas

Riding the tea cups!

child with down syndrome riding tea cups at six flags

child with special needs riding mine train at six flags

Getting ready to ride the Mine Train!

child with down syndrome riding merry go round at six flags

The Merry Go Round with Stella and her dad

The last ride they kids rode were these big swings. I buckled Noah in and he rode all by himself! I was a little nervous, but he met the height requirements, was buckled in, and the high school / college aged kid that was checking everything didn’t seem to have a problem with it, so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

child with down syndrome riding the swings at six flags over texas

The Swings

Thankfully he didn’t slip out of the restraints (with that low tone of his) and he had a great time! We all did. It was a great day.

We’re really thankful that Noah has a friend like Stella, and for all all of the friends that Noah has. Again, if you’re a new parent of a child with Down syndrome, I really do hope posts like these encourage you. Kids are kind. Don’t be worried about how kids will treat your child “one day.” Will some kids be mean, sure. That’s life. But I’ll tell you from my experience, kids (and parents) have been really great to Noah. Just look at this post from Noah’s 7th birthday party.

Our Experience with the Public School System

child with down syndrome first day of first grade

First Day of First Grade

If you have a child with special needs that hasn’t started school yet you may also wonder if you should home school your child, put them in a school that is almost exclusively for children with Down syndrome, or the public school system. I can’t speak for the first two, but I can say we have had an overall great experience with having Noah in the public school system. I think it’s great for the other kids to meet someone like Noah, and I think it’s great for Noah to be around other children who are more “advanced.” He learns behaviors from them, and hearing other children talking so well all day, is also helpful for him in regards to his speech development. Personally, we’re glad he’s in the public school system, and could never imagine doing anything otherwise.

Like I said, the children have been very kind to him. As adults, we could all learn a lot from children.

To Stella: There’s no way you can know now, a first grader, the blessing that you are to Noah and to us (his parents.) I hope one day you come across this post as an adult and are encouraged by how God has and is using you in Noah’s (and our) life when you were just a “little” girl. Thanks for loving our son so well.

Do you have a school aged child with Down syndrome? If so, do they go to public school? How has that expereince been? Leave a comment let us know!

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About Rick Smith

Hi, I'm Noah's Dad and I'm passionate about giving the world a window into our life as we raise our son who was born with Down syndrome. I also enjoy connecting with other families, so let's stay connected.


  1. Liat Shlasky says:

    wonderful! I enjoyed very much to read!

  2. This post brought tears to my eyes to read about how sweet a friend Stella has become. As a mom of a lil’ guy with DS (2), it DOES encourage me to read about Noah’s awesome friends in school and the wonderful things I have to look forward to. Thank you for sharing!!

  3. Your family is so precious as is Noah’s little friend! Our son (whom we adopted from Ethiopia) is also in grade one (in a private,Christian school) and we are so thrilled with the love and patience that his classmates show him. He had one of his friends over for a play date this summer and it was adorable to watch them play together! I love reading your posts! Blessings!

  4. If you guys are ever in Pittsburgh you’ve got friends here! Your a very inspirational family. I hope you all have a wonderful New Years Eve and the best year yet in 2018!

  5. Alisha Ainsworth says:

    Thank you for this beautiful and sweet post. Made me cry and smile at the same time. I cant wait for my Walker to get a little bigger were he will start building relationships with his peers also. He has his big sissy Maci who is 6 and already teaching him how to build healthy relationships!

  6. Thank you so so so much Noah’s dad to share your experiences with me and the rest of the parents of DS children… My son Is just 9 months old born with DS. Your blog means a lot to me.. May Allah bless you for what you are doing.

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