As part of World Down Sydrome Day I decided to volunteer diversity and inclusion units at Marble School. Over the next 2 weeks I will visit 6 classrooms. I know that I am best suited for the university classroom but WOW did I enjoy working with the third graders. They were so interested and so engaged! Yesterday I met with Ms. Daley's third grade class and I talked with the students about what makes all of us unique. I divided the students into pairs (except one group had three!) and they talked to each other about what makes them unique. When we came together as a group each student had a chance to say something about themselves and during the discussion we discovered that we would rather be called unique than "different." Then we looked at a chart of the 23 chromosomes and we talked about how chromosomes function and we noticed that they kind of look like worms. I explained that Joe has an extra chromosome on the 21st pair (I drew it in) and we talked about what that might mean for his health, his development, and other aspects of his life. The students were very interested and they particularly liked learning the term trisomy 21 and practicing it with other chromosomes (trisomy 7, trisomy 12, etc). They were interested to know if it was a good or bad thing that Joe has an extra chromosome. I said it was neither, it was just a thing, just what happened. One student said, "Hey, our class is sort of like Down Syndrome! You asked us to divide into pairs but it just happened that we had a group of three!" (I was hoping someone would notice that). I said, "Was that a good thing of a bad thing?" They said, "Just a thing."
I also told them that sometimes my feelings are hurt when other adults stare at Joe, or ask me what is wrong with him, or don't want to talk to him. When I asked if they could make suggestions about what I should say to them they said: "That is bullying! Just say that he has trisomy 21! Say nothing is wrong, he just isn't talking yet! You can report them to Ms. Preston (the principle)." Finally someone said, "Just say he is UNIQUE!"