Letter to parents: My kid has Down syndrome

Last year, Nichole was in a special education classroom. She did okay, but the teachers agreed that was not the best environment for Nichole. This year, Nichole is in a typical preschool classroom. Her class is co-taught by a regular teacher and a special ed teacher. I love both of them, they are fantastic. The special ed teacher goes above and beyond and takes the time to run through Nichole's day with me when I pick her up. We are so lucky to have her. The aides in her classroom are incredible, and the other teacher happens to be a teacher Nina had last year, so we already knew her. They do great with Nichole, there is no doubt about it.

That is the "teacher" side of school. However, there are friends, and there are the friend's parents! Following the example of many in the Down syndrome community, I decided to send a letter "introducing" them to Nichole. I want them to "see" more of her, besides lining up in the hall, or her total disappointment that it is me that picks her up and not her daddy. Yes, she is a daddy's girl through and through. Want to know what she can say with clear speech? "No, no mommy. I want daddy." Great!

Anyway, I thought I would share with you the letter we sent to her friend's families:

Yes, I included this picture, just without the text :)
Dear preschool parents,

I would like to introduce you to my daughter, Nichole. I know…who sends a letter introducing their child, right? Nonetheless, I want to share with you a little bit about her. After two and a half weeks in school,  I am sure you have seen Nichole lining up in the morning with her daddy, or maybe you have noticed her at the end of the day, when she turns her face away from me, hands out, and clearly says, “No, no mommy. I want daddy.” And then the drama queen kicks in full swing!

Nichole has Down syndrome, and while that is a part of who she is, it is not what defines her. Nichole is a little girl first, and Down syndrome is part of her genetic makeup, just like her green eyes and dark hair.

Nichole is almost 5 years old. She loves princesses, Barbies, Curious George, and especially Strawberry Shortcake. She loves to play pretend and dress-up. She is also a little performer, she likes to put on shows for mom and dad, and she likes to make people laugh. Sometimes, when other people are sad, she gives hugs and pats their backs to make them feel better. She adores her two big sisters (they are first grade ). Yet I am sure you know her favorite person in the world is her daddy! Nichole’s favorite snacks are Doritos, goldfish crackers, and M&Ms. She is a rascal, a dancer, a rascal, a trampoline jumper, and a rascal. Sounds like a pretty typical little girl, don’t you think?

 While Nichole has some trouble with her words – and she uses sign language – Nichole is more alike other 4-year-old little girls than she is different. Nichole is also very shy outside her family, so I think it will take her a while to warm up to her teachers and your child. She will eventually open up and try to boss them around. Did I mention she is a rascal?

Although it was hard to deal with Nichole’s diagnosis at the beginning, there is nothing about her that our family would change. She has brought more joy to our lives than we ever imagined. She is absolutely perfect!

If your child asks about what is “different” about Nichole, a simple explanation is that Nichole has Down syndrome, which means that sometimes things take her a little bit longer, like talking, walking, counting. You can also explain to your kids that we are ALL different. We all have different hair color, eye color, skin color, some of us are short, and some of us are tall. And these differences are what make us all special and unique. There is only one you!

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to pull me to the side or contact me, ellen@ellenstumbo.com. I always love to talk to other parents about Down syndrome and other special needs. Before Nichole was born, I knew little about what it was like to raise a child with special needs, and I wish someone had been available for me to ask questions. I am very open, and love to share about our experience. We are living and loving life with Down syndrome!

In the back of the page, I included some quick facts about Down syndrome.

The letter is going with the kids in their backpacks today! Exciting!