October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. I've thought about what I should talk about when it comes to Down Syndrome...should I focus on medical challenges, should I focus on therapy, should I focus on inclusion, should I focus on phases of grief ?...I'm not sure. I think I'll focus on something that has been coming up more recent with Gabe as he gets older. I noticed alot this summer that Gabe gets frustrated with himself when he can't do something. He is quieter around other kids. He cries because he's embarassed if he falls down or can't keep up. He is noticing differences. If he is noticing these differences, I'm sure friends and classmates are noticing these differences as well. so...how do you explain Down Syndrome to a preschooler? I think the key is to make it simple, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Most kids are satisfied with simple answers and don't think much of differences...as long as adults don't make a huge deal out of those differences. Here are some examples:
Why can't Gabe jump high like me or run as fast? Gabe's muscles have to work alittle harder than your's to move. He's learning how to do all that stuff. You can teach him! Show him how high you can jump! Look, Gabe's trying to do it too! You're a good teacher! Good job Gabe.
Why can't Gabe talk very well? Sometimes it takes Gabe awhile to make his mouth move to say what he wants to say. It's like his mouth is full of marshmellows. Be patient and wait for him to talk. Maybe we could all sing a song together.
Just some ideas....there are books as well. I haven't read "We'll Paint the Octopus Red" or "My Friend Has Down Syndrome", but I've heard good things. We are very fortunate that our local Down Syndrome Association has a School Age Matters Program. A leader from this group will go into your child's classroom and explain Down Syndrome to their classmates. They even have the kids wear mittens and try to write their name to give them an idea of fine motor delay. I will definitely use this resource next year when Gabe starts Kindergarten.
We are so fortunate to have supportive friends and family who recognize all of Gabe's similarities and strengths.