This is Nolan. He LOVES school. Actually, LOVES LOVES LOVES school – so much so that weekends are really hard for him because he wants to be at school! He’s very active, so naturally one of his favorite places is the playground.
He loves classroom worship, letters, and recognizes and signs the entire alphabet. “By age three or so, he knew hundreds of signs,” says his mom, Melissa.
“And he loves to be quizzed on signs too! He also loves puzzles. “He sees everything fit together and that’s just how his mind works.”
Nolan has Down syndrome, and this is his second year of school at West Side Christian. Last year he was in 3s preschool just a few days each week, and this year he’s attending both 3s and 4s preschool so that he can come every morning. “He’s so smart, and it’s sometimes hard for others to see that because his language skills are limited. Once you get to know him, you see that he’s clever and has a great sense of humor. He’s a lot of fun!,” says Melissa.
“He’ll never be at grade level like his classmates. But this is what I love about inclusion at West Side Christian: being in school is helping him reach his potential. That’s what he gets by being around his peers and being included in the West Side Christian School community. They’re helping him reach his potential for who he’s to become and who God created him to be. Whatever his potential is. Being here at West Side Christian School is helping him achieve!”
“He’s made so much progress in the last year!” says Mrs. Roberts.
“He’s gained so much confidence, and he’s much more independent this year. He interacts more with his classmates, and transitions from the routines in the 3s and 4s classrooms so well.”
And he’s always learning new things. One of his new favorite activities at preschool is ‘making birthday cakes’ – which is also excellent fine motor practice too! And whenever he makes something, he shows it to each of the adults in the room every time. He’s so proud of his work!”
Nolan’s parents have some friends who attended West Side Christian as children and spoke so highly of it, and his speech therapist also attended and recommended West Side Christian. “Whenever I heard someone talk about West Side Christian I heard good things about it. From the moment we showed interest in him coming here, we’ve heard nothing but ‘yes.’ We’d expected ‘no’ somewhere. ‘Yes, we want what’s best for Nolan too’ is what we’ve heard all the time,” says Melissa.
Nolan completed a year of special education preschool before attending preschool at West Side Christian. “The difference between him being in special education there [a self-contained classroom for students with special needs] and inclusive education here [in a regular classroom, supported with needed services] is such a huge huge difference,” says Melissa. “The bar in special education was so much lower for him. He could mostly reach it himself. At West Side Christian the bar is so much higher, even though he’s at a lower level. We really should expect a lot from kids with Down syndrome. He needs help reaching the bar, and teachers, classmates, therapists, parents all help him reach the bar! Everyone’s been accommodating to make sure he’s included and safe. They know he’s worth the investment. That’s HUGE to have people value your child for their inherent value.”
October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and we’ll be telling the story of inclusion here at West Side Christian School this week by introducing you to two of our students with Down syndrome. Really, though, the stories of our students with Down syndrome mirror those of all of our students here, and noted by Nolan’s mom:
“We love that West Side Christian School sees every child as equal in the eyes of God.”