Yesterday I had the great honor of going to Jacob’s school and talk to 3 Kindergarten classrooms (over 75 kids) about Down syndrome.
I had seen on Facebook people talking about this wonderful educational video called”Just Like You – Down syndrome“. I showed the trailer to my son’s Kindergarten teacher and asked if she thought it would be okay to talk to Jacob’s class about Down syndrome and show this video. She thought it was a fantastic idea and invited the two other Kindergarten classrooms.
A collaboration between Just Like You films and the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City has resulted in a fantastic video, Just Like You – Down Syndrome. This video features Elyssa, Rachel and Sam – three kids with Down syndrome and their best friends, Bretlyn, Savanna and Bobby. They talk about Down syndrome, what it’s like to have Down syndrome and how others can support those with Down syndrome and be their friend.
I started the conversation off with thanking them for letting me come and talk to them, and told them why I wanted to talk to them.
“See Jacob has Down syndrome, he was born with it.”
I explained to them what Down syndrome was in the easiest non-medical way I could. I told them that we have 46 chromosomes and that a person with Down syndrome, like Jacob has 47 chromosomes.
That chromosomes are a person’s genetic makeup, they tell people whether you are a boy or girl, or if you have blue eyes or green, or if you have blonde hair or brown hair like Jacob.
The extra chromosome that Jacob has gives characteristics of Down syndrome like having slanted eyes, low muscle tone, difficulty speaking and more.
I also explained that Down syndrome is a diagnosis, it’s not contagious you can’t catch it. I talked to them about going to the doctor when they didn’t feel good. The doctor looks at all your symptoms by looking at your ears, listening to your heart and looking at your throat, and tells your Mom or Dad a diagnosis that you may have a cold or the flu, and then they give you medicine to get better.
Well with Jacob they looked at his eyes, his hands, ran some tests and told us his diagnosis – he has Down syndrome. But you see Jacob can’t take medicine to make it go away or have any surgery to get rid of it. This is how he was born and he will always have it.
Then I turned on the movie. The kids were great they were really paying attention and listening and you could just see that they were thinking about what they were being told when it came to Jacob.
At one point in the movie, they talk about how hard it is sometimes for people with Down syndrome to talk, and used an example of putting marshmallows in your mouth. So we did that with all the kids. I gave them all a big marshmallow and asked them to say “Hello my name is _____”, and they tried it. Then I told them to just eat the marshmallow, and then I had Jacob come up to the front. I had him say without a marshmallow, “Hello my name is Jacob”. Just so they can see it for themselves. The kids loved playing this game or experiment.Then we finished watching the movie.
I also explained to them that Jacob may need some extra help to do the same things they are doing like when he goes to speech to learn how to say words, or has someone help him with is writing or even in gym.
He’s working really hard to do the same things that you are doing, but sometimes he may need some help. It’s ok to help him, just ask he may even say no he can do it himself and that’s okay.
I explained to them that Jacob had heart surgery and that he gets tired quickly and can’t run as fast as them, but he’s trying his best.
I told them that if they couldn’t understand what Jacob was saying, to have him repeat himself and slow down when he talks or show you want he means. If you still couldn’t understand then to have their teacher or Jacob’s aide to help.
The children were great and had some really great questions afterwards. You can see how engaged they were and really wanted to know more. Some of them came up to me afterwards and thanked me and that they liked the movie.
One little boy who I didn’t know came up to Jacob and said “Jacob let’s see who’s taller” and stood next to him. It’s all about creating the initial engagement that can open up a door to new friendships.
I also created this poster board for them, so they can see what Jacob does outside of school. That he likes to do the same things, play at the park, play sports etc.
I think it went great and would love to share it with other schools. Do you plan to talk to your child’s school about Down syndrome?