To say that I am a passionate advocate for inclusion may be an understatement. Having a son with Down syndrome has taught me many things, but perhaps the most important lesson is that we must see beyond labels and afford everyone the opportunities they need to truly be included in their communities.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed in the school’s daily email blast that it was time for Student Council elections. I will admit it: I geeked out. I was a Student Council representative in middle school, and held office in high school, and I loved it. You really don’t need any special talents or abilities to serve your school as a member of Student Council, so it allows everyone – from the most shy, to the most popular; from the introverted book worm to the star athlete – to feel like they can contribute. Typically, Student Council reps and officers are voted in by their peers, and because everyone gets a vote, everyone gets to participate in the process.
The ever-determined advocate in me decided to pitch the idea to Alex; what a great way for him to get involved at school! After I explained to Al what it was, and what he would do if elected, he decided that he would like to throw his hat in the race. We requested an application packet, and when he brought it home, we got to work. He dictated his answers to the student questionnaire, I wrote them down for him. He selected three teachers to whom he would give the teacher recommendation form; I sent an email alerting them that he would be bringing the form.
Preparing his “campaign speech” was a bit more challenging. He has performed in many school plays and church programs, and has no problem speaking in front of groups of people. However, reading scripts has occasionally proven difficult in the past, so someone has stood by to prompt him through his lines. I requested that either a peer buddy or an aide prompt him during his speech, and we practiced and practiced at home. The morning of the election, I received this photo, showing that he did indeed deliver his speech to persuade his homeroom classmates to vote for him.
Elections results were supposed to be announced today, but I didn’t hear an official announcement of the outcome. I can gather, though, that Alex was not elected as his homeroom’s Student Council representative. While it would have been incredibly cool to have a student with Down syndrome elected to represent his peers, I’m still very proud of Alex. He accomplished so much just by trying! He showed his peers that he is, indeed, an equal and able member of their class. He demonstrated that all students can easily be included, when modifications are made. He proved, again, that we should constantly be seeking out the abilities of those around us, and not shortchanging them because we don’t think they are capable.
Well done, Alex. And don’t worry…you can try again next year. #InclusionMatters