Celebrating My Daughter With Down Syndrome as She Graduates From Elementary School

Ellie graduates from elementary school.
It's the eve of my daughter's graduation in fifth grade. I stare at an empty graduation card, frozen, pen in hand. I can't decide if it's just more daunting to be just 4 x 6 inches apart to recognize their performance or if I have enough space to translate tears (both happy and sad) into ink that deserves the space provided.
Of course, it's just the beginning of elementary school. I don't think I had one, and if so, I certainly can't remember it. But for a child with Down syndrome who has given everything consistently, supported by a school community that embraced them and made their challenges their own, it is worth a moment to be celebrated.
If I had more space, I would tell the intense debate during their IEP meeting that would determine the kindergarten placement, which was interrupted by the director of special education, who ordered: “Ellie does not go to a special room. She will study with her peers in a Gen Ed classroom. " And that was it.
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I would talk about the moment when her classmate in kindergarten, after learning what it means to have Down syndrome and how Ellie had differences, broke the silence and said, "Ellie is filling my bucket," which one Outpouring of affection catalyzed by her classmates.
I would like to mention everyday life, which is littered with moments of fame, such as talent shows and concerts and the applause that follows. And simple pleasures, like chasing her as she walks down the hall and sees a smile on the faces of people whom she greets by name and who light up one after the other like the green light in a city avenue. Open a path for a brighter day.
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I would also admit my fear that all other parents might be watching them and feeling that Ellie is living "under the microscope". Then he gradually became pretty sure that no one was looking through the lens at the other end. And when someone looked, he was sure that I didn't care.
Or the annual tradition of her parent-teacher conference, where her teacher invariably raves about how much Ellie tries, how she defies expectations, and how amazed she is by Ellie's subtle sense of humor and ability to persuade. I am grateful that Ellie was blessed with educators who accepted and valued her and challenged her to be a better version of herself. Your support team would do anything to tip the scales in their favor and be successful. Ellie was her mission and her graduation is her shared success (thanks!).
Her primary school community adopted her and built a bubble around her. She will go to middle school next year. Larger building. Bigger challenges. Older children, most of whom hadn't met Ellie before they were old enough to realize that she might have differences. Middle school is tough for every child. For Ellie, my heart is asking her future classmates for kindness. She is sure to reciprocate.
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While my thoughts are worrying, I have to remember that Ellie always takes the opportunity to convert the unbelievers. I have already said that Ellie can go to the moon and I believe that she will dent the universe in her own way.
If you think about it, 4 "x 6" is plenty of room to fill when four words encompass everything.
Proud. Grateful. Scared. Hopeful.
Here is for you, sweet Ellie. You did it! I love you.
Read more stories like this on The Mighty:
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Why as a parent of a child with Down syndrome, I need more than self-care
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