Each afternoon when I pick up my daughter from school, I get a peek into a world that is all hers. Ellie, 2, was born with Down syndrome and just this summer she started walking, eating by mouth and wowing us with new words she speaks every day — all things she has worked toward for a very long time.
With every school week that passes, she shows us she can do new things and that encourages my husband and me to keep pushing for her independence. We are reminded that she is living her own life outside of our house that includes friendship, responsibility and understanding with people who love her. We couldn’t ask for anything more.
This year Ellie is in Ms. Lori Robert’s class at ACCESS Early Childhood. With around 30 years of experience along with her own personal struggle with learning challenges, “Ms. Lo” brings a unique perspective to her classroom.
“I am grateful for my ADHD and my processing challenges. They have formed in me an understanding of how important it is to look at each child that enters my room as an astounding, brilliant, unique person who has been put on this earth for a beautiful and important purpose,” Ms. Lo says.
Ms. Lo shares some of her expertise when it comes to setting little ones with special needs up for success. These are good tips anyone can use in or outside of a classroom.
Begin with Gratitude
“I start … each day from the perspective of gratitude, privilege and joy. … I have, in my classroom, eight to 12 little beings who are their parents’ whole world. These parents are counting on me to teach, love, nurture and help their child along on their journey of growth and to meet the goals set before them. Starting with this perspective is vital to me and I hope helpful to parents.”
“Start early; when you do, you become less alone. The children are less alone. You have friends, therapists, teachers and other families going through similar circumstances that can be objective and help with perspective. The children will have friends out in the world and teachers who value and help them, who will be in their corner and yours.”
Connect to Curriculum at Home
“The children whose parents are aware of what we are doing at school and are building on that at home seem to get even more excited about our activities and work at school. For instance, if we are reading a book on construction, take your child to see a backhoe or point one out while driving down the road.”
“Be patient with their progress. Sometimes the growth can come slow. Be patient with yourself and your child. … Your patience gives confidence to them — not because they earn it every day with progress — but because you and their teachers, therapists and school are showing up.”
Heather Honaker is circus ringleader for three kids 4 and under — two typical, one not, but they all think they are special. You can follow along as the messiness unfolds around her family by reading the Typically Not Typical blog.
Originally published in the January 2021 issue of Little Rock Family.
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