Noah’s a Fifth Grader!

It seems like yesterday I was writing this letter to Noah as he started pre-school, but as of last week we are officially the parents of a fifth grader! (We also wrote this letter and this letter in later grades.)

I really can’t believe it, but it’s true what they say, time flies. I remember when Noah first started at the local public school where he attends years ago. We had to fight for him and work hard for the school district to come up with an IEP that we all agreed to. It was a lot of work at the time but it was worth it.

Today Noah is goes to our local public school and is included in a class room with his peers for a big chunk of the day, is pulled out to work with a resource teacher some of the day for areas where he needs more focused help, has lots of friends, and his loved by his peers. I am so proud of this kid and for how hard he has worked over the years. I’m also so thankful a school district that includes him and works hard to see that he grows, develops, learns, and is included.

I’m also proud of how he has adapted to the COVID protocols at his school. The boys are wearing masks again this year and he doesn’t have an issue keeping it on at all. I know this isn’t the case with all kids, so I consider ourselves lucky that this isn’t a challenge we have hard to work on overcoming with Noah.

Noah, I’m so proud of you! I know you are going to rock the fifth grade!

To the Parents Whose Children Are Just Starting School

I also know there are a lot of parents who are just sending their kids with Down syndrome off to school for the first time and you likely a lot of emotions. I wanted to share this note my wife shared on Facebook the day before Noah started the fifth grade with you. It encouraged me, and I hope it encourages you:

From Noah’s Mom – “6 years ago (give or take a week) I was absolutely terrified to send my non verbal son with Down syndrome to kindergarten. I had already been writing letters to teachers so had written a lengthy one to his kinder teacher to help her know him better and what worked well for him. The first day, I think I cried harder than I had in years. I ended up breaking out in shingles. We started the day off by being called and told he could not participate in the school’s after school program so I felt rejection before we even stepped foot in the school. A sweet mama saw me leave and reached out to me and invited us to snow cones with a group of other kinder boys after school. Her small act of compassion made a HUGE impact on me. Three days later we started to hear about a sweet girl who had claimed Noah as her best friend who was a boy and was making up hand shakes and sitting by him and being his helper. Pretty sure she got student of the week the first week because of how she included Noah. Within the first few days I also went into the class to talk about some of the differences they may see but also point out the similarities. It broke down barriers and Noah was a valued member of his class who started making even more friends. We got this all second hand because he could never tell us about his day. By the end of the year we started to hear names and when it came to the end of year party he totally ditched us to hang with his friends.

Fast forward to today and the nerves are all gone. He’s got friends who are so excited that he is in their class. He’s got teachers who know him and can’t wait to see him. He’s telling me so many stories that I know that he’s going to get in trouble for talking too much (still often hard to understand but still soooo much talking). He’s got his IEP in place that I like and think is good for him.

I just want to say this to those younger than us. It gets better. I know it is absolutely terrifying to send that kiddo off but it gets better.

If you are that mama sending off a kiddo with special needs I just want to encourage you. You’ve got this. You’ve done hard things their entire life and this is something you can do too. Make an effort to figure out who is interested in your child as a friend and go after those families. Invite those kids over, get to know their parents. It’s a game changer. Be patient as the school figures out your kiddo and offer them grace. Always remember you are the expert on your kiddo. Offer up your tips and suggestions.

If you are the parent of a typical kiddo, I encourage you to reach out to those mamas who are dropping off a child with special needs. Encourage them and include them. Invite them to snow cones. Teach your kid about differences and to look for the kid who may be left out and bring them into the circle. To find the kid playing alone and ask them if they want to join. If there is one thing I know, it is that all kids want friends. Invite everyone to the party. Ask parents how they can best include their child if you don’t know the answer. I promise you we love questions.

At the end of kinder, the mom of the little girl who became Noah’s bestie, wrote me a letter talking about how she prayed for me and Noah that first day thinking about how hard it must be. She prayed that Noah would make friends. She didn’t realize she was praying for her own daughter and she realized that Noah made a bigger impact on her and her initial prayer should have been that she hopes her daughter could have a friend like Noah (yep still get teary thinking about it).

We’ve got this mamas and so do our kiddos 🙂#realdsmommoments

I love how my wife puts that. (By the way, we’ve actually written about the classmate my wife talks about on our blog which you can read here.

To everyone whose kids just started school I hope this year is a GREAT one! I also want to see your back to school pictures. Feel free to share one in the comments below!

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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. Gunder Glenn says

    Hi Rick, does Noah attend regular school class with regular kids? We have our own little angel with special needs and she’s turning 5 this year.

  2. Love seeing this!! Our Lulu is starting Kindergarten this year at the parish school where Max is now a 4th grader. We are super excited as we’ve worked closely with the school to begin their efforts for inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities and Lulu is their first student! I know Noah will crush it this year in 5th grade. Thanks for the great updates!

  3. Here’s the “first day” pic:)

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