Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The School People Assumed My Daughter Needed

"Is your daughter going to attend "B" school?"

People started asking me this question when my daughter with Down syndrome was just 2 years old. The question bothered me for one main reason. People assumed my daughter needed "B" school because she had Down syndrome. That didn't sit well with me.

"B" school is a day school in my area serving people with intellectual disabilities in the moderate to profound range who are between the ages of 6-21. Life skills, functional skills, and tailored academics are all provided at "B" school.

Of course, I knew that "B" school may be a possibility for Jaycee in the future. However, I didn't automatically assume she would go there just because she had Down syndrome. Who was to say that she couldn't be taught in a special education classroom, a communication disordered classroom, or a regular classroom? At age 2 when these questions started, I couldn't predict what Jaycee would need.

Still, some people asked me about this particular school when Jaycee was quite young. You'd probably be surprised by the number of times I was asked about it by strangers or acquaintances. Even a Wal-Mart cashier asked if my daughter, who was shopping with me, attended "B" school. One can only surmise that she asked the question because of her Down syndrome.

Most people who asked me about "B" school had connections to it either by a family member who attended or worked there. Everyone sang the praises of the school and encouraged me to send her there. I was never opposed to it, but I wanted to see what my daughter needed. What did I have to add to this conversation while I was raising my toddler or preschooler?

These are the sort of assumptions that parents in my situation don't like. I have heard other parents tell me similar stories. One parent of a diagnosed child ran into an acquaintance who taught special education. The special education teacher told the parent that she looked forward to having her in the class as a student one day. That comment didn't sit well with the parent and for good reason. When a comment like this is made for a child under 3, one can only assume that the diagnosis is driving the comment. This parent, like me, wanted the child viewed as a whole...not just a diagnosis.

As Jaycee began attending school when she was 3, the staff always looked at all of her abilities and challenges when making placement decisions. Early on, her inability to speak, tendency to run off, and delays in motor skills led her to an early childhood classroom- with increasing time with peers in the preschool room. When she started grade school, she went into a room for children with communication disorders who needed a strong language curriculum while making accommodations for other needs (such as her inability to write). She had opportunities to be around peers too.

As Jaycee has gotten older, I knew "B" school was coming. A battery of tests from an educational specialist showed me numbers and figures about my child that I already knew. Jaycee was eligible for "B" school. Even with her best efforts and many helpful therapists and professionals over the years, "B" school seemed to be the best option for her. Unlike the people who assumed she would need the school when she was a small child just learning to walk, the decision was made on a number of factors...not just on her Down syndrome diagnosis.

In August, Jaycee began attending "B" school. It was a big change for all of us, but we knew it was the best place for her at this stage of her life. She's settled in quite well, made some new friends, and seems to have made some connections with the staff there.

Even though Jaycee ended up at the place where some assumed she would go based off her diagnosis alone, I hope others can learn from this story. Assumptions about abilities shouldn't be made off a diagnosis alone. She's more than her Down syndrome. Ask her new teachers. They'll tell you.


  1. I'm surprised people made such assumptions, especially strangers and when she was so young! I can understand how that must have been a bit upsetting!

  2. I am glad you are able to get your daughter what she needs and more glad that you speak up for her. People like to assume and that just isn't cool at all. Good luck to her in school.


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