Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mary, Queen of Peace, Where Are You??

Do you ever wonder why
social change takes so long?


Be an ally.


Mary, Queen of Peace, where are you??

Today is the first day of school and Chris doesn't get to start Kindergarten.


At your school, with your name, with your strength and wisdom and history of miracles,
they said no.
Even though he was there in the prekindergarten last year.

Chris, it turns out, has a little too much Down Syndrome.
"He's severely effected."

Which, by the way, isn't even a thing.
People with Down Syndrome either have it or they don't.
They are all learners.
They all have hopes and dreams.
Some might be more delayed but that doesn't mean they aren't learning.

What's going on in kindergarten that a child with Down Syndrome can't participate in?
Is it the social skills?
Well, let's be honest, Chris won't be the only one who needs to work on that.
Is it the academics?
Pretty sure that Chris ins't the only one who could use some extra help there.

Is it the idea that every single one of us is holy and sacred and made in God's image?
**That's a core belief of Catholicism and one of Mary's shining lights.**
Is Chris not holy enough? 
Sacred enough?
Is he broken??

Hell no.

He is made in God's image, exactly as God intended.
He is beautiful.
He is irreplaceable.
He is miraculous.

Mary, Queen of Peace, yes, she knows this.

Mary, Queen of Peace, the school, near St. Louis, Missouri, 
is apparently still trying to figure it out.

We need bravery.
We need courage.
We need a whole crew of people to step up and shout that Chris deserves to be there.
Right alongside their own kid.
Learning and growing.

We need voices.
We need action.
We need to live social justice and not just talk about it.

Come on.
Mary, Queen of Peace, the school, the faculty, the parents, the students, the priests, the parish...where are you??
Do you even know this is happening?
How much do you believe in Mary, Queen of Peace?

She makes miracles happen.
She comforts.
She leads.
She defends and protects.

Let her show you the way.
Trust her.
Watch what happens with a little faith and effort.

I know because I've lived it.
My own son, Patrick, who also has Down Syndrome, went to kindergarten at St. James Catholic School in Davis, California.
He actually went to first and second and third and fourth and fifth and sixth and seventh and yes, even eighth grade there.
He just graduated this year.

Was it perfect?
Did we learn a lot?
Was it worth it?
Most definitely.

Could we help you??
Of course!!
I've got not just one kindergarten teacher but two that would be willing to help.
(Heck, I've even got a couple of principals who would talk to you!)
They are amazing teachers and yes, they believe that Chris can learn 
alongside of his classmates.
In fact, they know he will read and write and learn his math facts just like the rest.
It might take some more repetition.  It might take several different ways.
But it will happen.
In Chris's way. In his timing.
And it will be exactly right.

And, I'd love to have an excuse to visit you near St Louis and introduce you to Patrick...
I'd love to do an inservice for your teachers and share what we've learned.
I work with beginning teachers as my job with our local university, UC Davis.
I can send you a resume.

And guess what?
We have the educational research to help you.
We know what to do.
We know the teaching techniques that work.
We know what apps work.
We know how to use technology to help learners like Chris

...and here's the good part...

that research, that technology, those teaching techniques won't just help Chris, 
they will help all of your struggling learners...
and let's not pretend that Chris is the only student who struggles.
There's a guaranteed  10% that struggle.
In every classroom.

Your entire school will benefit with Chris's inclusion, both academically and socially.
This has been documented time and again with research and 
this is what we've seen at St. James.

Here's another mind-blower:
In the entire United Kingdom, it is standard practice to place every child with 
Down Syndrome into their neighborhood school fully included with support in kindergarten.  

If it's good enough for the UK, don't you think Mary, Queen of Peace could try?

I know you want to do what's best for Chris 
and the rest of the students who attend your school.
I know you care.

What's best for Chris (and the entire student body) is creating an environment that allows Chris to learn at the same school as his sister.
What's best for Chris (and the entire student body) is the message that he is valuable.
And worthy.
And good enough.

That's the message you want to send.

Stop being afraid.
Stop thinking you can't do this.

Open your heart to Mary, Queen of Peace, to the Holy Spirit, and to Jesus Christ and 
let it all unfold.

Do you think it's an accident that Chris's mom and I crossed paths?
I don't.
I know it's what God intended.
I can see God's hand in all of this.
Your school's name is no accident.

Patrick's kindergarten teacher 
(who wasn't too sure about Patrick going to kindergarten there)
signed every letter she wrote home to the parents with this phrase:

"With God, all things are possible."

Once I saw that, I knew we had a chance.
And we did.

Here is Patrick on his graduation day, May 30th, 2014.

Yep, miracles do come true.

Believe it.

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