Years ago, when my own children were very young, I met a mom who had a seven-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome. I listened as she talked about attending a recent IEP (Individualized Education Plan) with teachers, therapists, and school administrators, focusing on goals and action plans for her daughter’s first grade experience. I have never forgotten the list that she and her husband brought with them to share with the other members at the IEP. The list carefully detailed all the hopes and dreams they had for their precious little girl, including having friends, driving a vehicle, attending college, and possibly even getting married.
Every seven-year-old is more than a child learning phonics, writing, spelling, math, and the mechanics of sitting through school each day. Every person with Down Syndrome—or any other diagnosis—is so much more than the label which describes their unique challenges.
In fact, in the words of a song I remember singing when I was a little girl, every child could say, “I am a Promise, I am a Possibility, I am a Promise, with a capital P…I am a great big bundle of POTENTIALITY!” (Bill Gaither). Someday, most children will grow up to be adults who could contribute in adult ways to our world, using their time and abilities to teach, build, heal, discern, entertain, encourage, drive, supply, create, facilitate, program, etc. to make the world a better place for everyone in it.
As we live and work with children, we have the opportunity to shape young individuals to be respectful, honest, kind, responsible, friendly, passionate, discerning, joyful, well-organized, hard-working, and compassionate. Yes, phonics, math, playground antics and sleep-overs are important components of the “work” of every seven-year-old. But through each of those, we can teach and model the qualities and characteristics they will need in order to realize their full potential, both as children, and as future adults. (I’ll write more about that next week!)
Best wishes to all of you engaged in the daily task of nurturing young bodies and minds. Although the task isn’t without its challenges, it is also incredibly rewarding!