Inclusion and Friendship for People With Down Syndrome

I came across this essay written by a high school student. It is an essay on friendship, and about the things that really matter in life, even to a teenager.

I am aware that some people might not see school inclusion as a good idea. Some are fearful that those with intellectual disabilities might hold the rest of the class back. Unfortunately there are still some who think that children with intellectual disabilities need to be confined to the special education classroom. However, I know that Nichole has much to offer her typical peers. So enjoy this beautiful essay written by Kaitlyn Smith.

Kaitlyn Smith
Period 5, 11/30/09
Final

My Best Friend… My Hero

Staring up at the huge hill of stairs flooded with people slowly making there way to the top, I was frozen still. It was the first day of my freshmen year of high school, and I spent all morning making sure my outfit was pretty enough, my make up was blended enough and my hair was straight enough. I walked into school with my head held high, but my mind scattered in a million different directions. I had no idea who I was. All that I cared about was trying to fit in and look stylish. Looking back at freshmen year I am very ashamed of the person I was, but proud of the person I have become. My life has changed so much since freshmen year, and it is all thanks to one special person… my best friend.

Our friendship started at the beginning of sophomore year in gym class. When the teacher paired me up to work with her all year, I was excited because it was an opportunity for me to get to know her better. It didn’t take long before we became incredible friends. We sit together at lunch everyday, call each other on the phone, make each other cards, go to the movies, go shopping and spend every spare second we can with each other. Although this seems like a relationship that any teenage girl has with her best friend, it’s truly different. My best friend has changed my life.

Right from the moment I met her, I knew my best friend was a blessing. I needed someone in my life that was going to change my perspective and give me a different outlook. She did just that. Walking down the hallway with her one afternoon on our way to lunch, we passed a group of people that looked at her and laughed. My best friend looked right at them, kept a smile on her face and ignored it. After time and time again this same scenario played out exactly like the first, I finally understood. She doesn’t care what people think of her. After seeing how happy she is just being herself, I realized something that changed my life. I don’t need stylish outfits and perfect hair; I can be myself and be perfectly happy, just like my best friend. When I wake up in the morning, I no longer have to stress about the battle of finding a perfect outfit. I know that no matter what I wear my best friend will treat me just the same.

After my best friend made me recognize that who I am is acceptable, I stopped worrying about what people thought of me. I’ve heard repeatedly from several different people, “you’re definitely not the normal teenager,” but what is normal? Getting drunk every weekend, having every other word out of my mouth be a cuss word, dating ten guys a month, and experimenting with drugs? Well than I am completely fine with being different, and my best friend taught me that.

After being able to put all the pointless high school drama aside, I have been able to have so much fun! Instead of worrying about getting a date to homecoming, I went with my best friend. We got ready together with a big group of friends, and then all went to the dance. We danced all night together and had such an amazing time. For once I could enjoy homecoming without worrying about what my date was thinking, and if my hair was staying in place.

My best friend has changed my life more than words can explain. She is my hero. I have gained a new perspective on life, and have learned that you just have to be yourself. Some people look at my best friend and think that she’s different, but she’s not… she’s just like you and me. The only difference between my best friend, Kathleen and me is that she has Down Syndrome, but that is what makes her my hero. As Steve Guttenburg once said “If you’re an underdog, mentally disabled, physically disabled, if you don’t fit in, if you’re not as pretty as the others, you can still be a hero” and Kathleen is mine.