Today in class I was discussing Martin Luther King, Jr. with my students and asked them why it's still important to talk about his legacy. I got some of the answers you would expect that explained the history and what he is well known for. I then asked them what the take home message was that everyone should walk away from today having learned, students AND adults. I got some great responses like "you should never judge a book by a cover", "treat others as you want to be treated", "we are all created equal and all deserve the same rights", as well as others.
I typically talk about Colin the first week of school because I connect it to respect, how I like the class to go throughout the year, and my expectations of them to work hard no matter what their challenges are so they are familiar with Colin having Down Syndrome.
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy leaves a messages for all of us today, regardless of whether you are referring to ethnicity, religious background, developmental differences, or just simply personality differences. It got me thinking that despite some of the challenges Colin himself faces, he is still entitled to the same education as his typical peers. In all of my research about inclusion in school, I keep coming across the same answer. The answer says that inclusion works for everyone because it teaches students to respect one another, work with another and it says when students are exposed to the same curriculum they ALL have the ability to reach their potential.
Many years ago, people with Down Syndrome were put it institutions because it was believed they couldn't learn. However, the shift started to happen when parents believed in their children and found that by raising them just like their typical children, they had the same possibilities. Today, we spend the first three years of our children's lives assisting them in attaining skills so that they are prepared to head to preschool at the age of 3. I BELIEVE with all of my heart that when Colin is exposed to the same curriculum as his typical peers, he can be JUST as successful because he will discover what moves him. I recently stumbled across this blog post and I was moved to tears. This mom articulated the answers I have been looking for in my quest to figure out what's best for Colin in Kindergarten.
As Colin's parents, Chris and I have a dream for Colin that he will cooperatively live and work in a society that respects him for WHO he is. We were once scared of what the future would hold for Colin before Colin himself taught us what he is capable of. We know that as long as we support Colin and give him everything he deserves, ANYTHING is possible.
Thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr. for the legacy you have left behind.