Down syndrome from a father's perspective.

I NEVER REALIZED HOW MUCH THOUGHT WOULD GO INTO EDUCATION

ADIOS EARLY-ON

On March 20 Treyton will turn three; apparently that is a “key” age in the world of special education. Because of this pending transition, Leigh Ann and I visited a new school for Treyton this week. It was a good experience but I must say that it is one of the many things that, prior to having Treyton, I never thought I would have. I would have never guessed that I would be checking out schools for my toddler.

NEW SCHOOL, NEW EXPERIENCE

We had the opportunity to sit in on a class in session to see some of the different things Trey will be doing as well as some of the other kids that will be in his class. Watching a teacher skillfully interact with a student (a.k.a. young special needs child) can be quite impressive. I also love to watch kids in their own environment – I think that is why I have so much fun with Treyton, I love to watch him wander and interact with his world.

As I was watching the gathering I noticed that there were not any kids with Down syndrome in the group. That is one of the things that still confuses me about the special education program. I know why and how Treyton is involved but some of these kids are simply there for speech issues. I have nieces on both sides of my family that were speech delayed but they never went into the special education system like this.

I do think Treyton will do well in this new setting but it seems so unnatural to be talking about my baby-boy’s school. When the teacher mentioned that bussing was available I had to make it clear that I was not ready to put Trey on a bus without me.

IT’S ME, NOT YOU

Let me make myself clear about that last point. It is not that Treyton could not handle riding on the bus. After all, the bus would pick him up at our front door where his mom could strap him into his seat. On the way home the teacher or one of the assistants would perform the same ceremony. In between our house and the school I am confident that the bus driver would be able to transport my precious cargo safely.

The issue is me. I am not ready for it. I cannot imagine my little man in that scenario. There is so much we, as parents of a child with Down syndrome, have to do to help Treyton that is not easy to do. I will do whatever it takes to help Treyton reach his full potential…at least up to the point of putting him on the bus as a three year-old.

One of the concerns I have had since the first therapy session is that at times it feels like we are not letting him “just be a kid.” Treyton has Down syndrome, which will likely cause cognitive delays as well as an assortment of possible health issues. That seems like enough, I don’t want to take his childhood away as well. Just as soon as I wrote that the other side of the arguement popped up in my head – I don’t want to short change Treyton on learning opportunities either. This is one of the things Leigh Ann and I have to struggle to balance. It is a struggle.

A SISTER’S PRIDE

Probably the best part of this story was a part that I missed while at work. Later in the day, after our classroom visit, Leigh Ann picked our girls up from school like she normally does. As they were riding in the car they talked about the day which is when Leigh told the girls a little about the visit we had.

Our girls are always very interested in what we are doing with Treyton so we generally let them know ahead of time about events like this visit. However, Lindyn, our 7 1/2 year-old daughter must not have been listening before because she acted surprised. After hearing about the visit to Treyton’s new school Lindyn got a little quiet. Then, I am told, she sat forward with a big smile on her face and exclaimed, “I am so proud of Treyton. He made it to preschool!”

I am proud of Treyton too. I also want to point out that Treyton has an amazing mom and three sisters that I am proud of. God has blessed me with a great family. All of them are a blessing.

Rob Arnold has been married to his high school sweetheart for almost 19 years. Together they have three daughters and one son. He earned his bachelor's degree in General Business from Grand Valley State University as well as an MBA in Strategic Management from Davenport University. He enjoys reading, hunting, scuba diving, and spending time with his family.