I always thought middle school would be the time when life for a child with Down syndrome got hard. The infant and toddler years held their share of medical challenges. The pre-school and elementary school years included moving and learning to read and making friends and generally a healthy, happy life. I thought that would all change with the social struggles of the tween years. But Penny starts 8th grade today (!!!), and although there have been plenty of bumps along the social road of middle school, it has also been a better experience than what I could have imagined for her.
I asked Penny to write about what she’s expecting as she looks forward to the school year:
Eighth grade will be a huge part of my life because there will be different teachers and different students. I think new students will come into the building and say “wow this is bigger than I thought it would be”. Especially a girl who I know from ballet who will be entering school and will be a new Sixth Grader. If I were her I know that I would be nervous. Its her first time at a new school.
I know from the future that it would be the same but different in cool new ways. Gym for example. I might have a different teacher than everybody else because I have special needs and they might think I need extra help than the others. I am also a little bit nervous because they usually have a red carpet on the first day of school and that for me is kind of nerve racking. When you walk into school on the first day there is a red carpet. Teachers will be on the sidelines cheering you on.
What I am looking forward to about 8th grade is seeing friends, seeing all the same teachers and or maybe different, and seeing familiar friends and to meet new friends.
My favorite parts of the school day Are lunch seeing old and new friends
Language arts maybe the same teacher maybe not
I also enjoy math
I also enjoy chorus
The most challenging part is science.
Since the start of 7th grade, I have been expanding new friendships and having a friend group to hang out with. I had one particular friend who I had a lot of fights with. One particular fight I do not want to mention but believe me when I say this after the fight we stopped being friends. I have another friend group who is very popular they all hang out with each other and gossip about other kids not including me whom I sit with at lunch everyday if they have enough room at the table I mostly just sit there and eat lunch.
All in all the start of school will be a blast.
Well there you have it. Penny’s learning a little bit in her classes and a lot at the lunch table.
At each stage of her life, I’ve confronted fears about what’s next, and at each stage I have been surprised and grateful to see that although there are plenty of struggles and challenges to face, she has also been surrounded by supportive and kind friends and teachers. I keep remembering what I say I believe–that love is stronger than fear.
PS: My friend, Stephanie Meredith, a mom with a teenage son with Down Syndrome, wrote an excellent guest post for my blog earlier this summer called 10 Tips for Raising a Cool Kid with Down Syndrome (even if you’re a nerdy parent like me). Her son Andy is older and further down the road than Penny, and I found her ideas and advice deeply encouraging as we enter the teen years. Be sure to check out that post as well.