When Whitney’s son Daniel was getting ready to start kindergarten, Whitney was more than a little nervous. Daniel has Down Syndrome along with sensory issues, and is nearly non-verbal. She recalls the questions and concerns she had when it came to sending her son off to school.
"How was a child who cannot communicate in words how they are feeling, who needs to be spoon-fed, and will run away the second you turn your back, going to survive at school 7 hours a day?"
To help ease her fears, during the first week of school Whitney or her husband Ryan, would go in during lunch time to feed Daniel. And even though Daniel had been potty trained for nearly two years, Whitney still sent him to school wearing a pull up diaper just in case he had an accident.
Then Whitney received an unexpected request.
“Daniel’s teacher asked me to not come during lunch, to not put a Pull-Up on Dan, and to have faith because she was going to make sure Dan did everything just like everyone else.”
It turns out Daniel’s teacher was on to something. Because by the end of the school year, Daniel was feeding himself, going nearly every day without accidents, signing multiple words, writing the letter D, and pretty much “just blowing everyone away.”
“Daniel’s teacher being a hardass on both Daniel and me was the best thing that has ever happened to us,” says Whitney. “From her I learned the only thing limiting Daniel’s ability are the people who have low expectations for him.”
From this experience, Whitney discovered it wasn’t Daniel who wasn’t ready for kindergarten, it was her. And Daniel’s first year of school has re-shaped her perspective.
"So, if you love someone with Down syndrome — or any disability — please do not limit them by having low expectations. Expect the world of them. Because even if they do not meet your expectations, they will accomplish more than you could have ever imagined."
Well said, Whitney.
Be sure to share this post to remind others of the importance of setting the bar high!