1. Mo Murphy

    Thanks for this great article! What you say is so true.

    A great blessing in my family’s life is the Catholic school our daughters transferred to last year after our parish school had to close. Some years ago school the archdiocese runs for developmentally challenged children whose needs could not be met in the mainstream parochial schools moved to share the school buildings with St. David (my daughters’ school). One of the reasons was so that these precious children could have more opportunities to be with typically developing children but the blessings they brought for our St. David’s kids have been many.

    The two schools share the school buildings and their facilities. They all wear the same uniforms – just with a different patch to designate St. David or Our Lady of Confidence. They attend assemblies and Mass together. Seeing all the children together celebrating First Friday Mass is a joy indeed.

    When we were choosing a new school for our daughters we had the opportunity to speak with staff and students from several different schools. When we asked the St. David kids if they enjoyed their school and did fun things their first reply was the fun they had with their OLC friends.

    My daughters, including my 2nd grader, have invaluable opportunites to visit these special needs kids in their classrooms and play with them and work on projects with them. Older students are able help out the teachers and aides in OLC. These are wonderful opportunities for the children in interact and get to know fellow members of the Body of Christ who may be a little different from themsleves but are, as you point out, an improtant part of the rich fabric of our Faith.

    One of the most wonderful things to see are the strong, strapping boys in 8th grade who are trusted with the most important job of all. Through the generosity of a special fund established by St. David’s wonderful pastor, OLC also cares who several profoundly challenged young adults who have “aged-out” of the schools and programs where they once attended. When it’s time to attend Mass, these 8th graders go over to their classrooms and push these very special charges over to the church in their wheelchairs along with their IV poles, etc. and back again after Mass over. It’s a very moving sight.

    Sorry to have gone on so long but this rare opportunity has been such a blessing to our children that I can’t help but wish it were available to more of our young people.

    • Mary,
      Thanks so much for the great reply and witness. My daughter is just 3, and you bring up great points that my husband and I want and must consider as we select a school for her to attend in the coming years. We are fortunate there are so many good schools in our area!

    • This sounds so wonderful! We don’t have the same resources–there is a parochial school half an hour away that serves kids with special needs, but we don’t feel like separating that far is going to accomplish our goals. When my daughter starts kindergarten next fall, we’ll do it in the public schools with an eye to transferring to the Catholic school if she can handle the classroom. Lots of uncertainty right now.

  2. Thank you for this post! I had never thought about my children being aware of people with disabilities until we attended a gathering of extended family and one of the distant relatives had a child with Down syndrome. My SIX year old had so many questions and I couldn’t believe that was the first time she had played with a child that wasn’t like her. It was so eye-opening and a learning experience for all of us. I appreciate your ideas!

  3. My older kids started school in a public school that had a lot of special needs kids and did a great job with mainstreaming. My son then moved to a Catholic school–an old school with a three story building and no elevator. My daughter (who was still in public school, in third grade) asked where the elevator was and when told there was none, asked how the handicapped kids got to the upper floors. When I told her that physically handicapped kids couldn’t go to that school, she said “That’s just plain wrong”.

  4. Kathleen, I’m so glad you wrote that. And I agree whole-heartedly. I too find myself uncomfortable at time because I’m not sure how to be normal. My kids, thankfully, have no trouble interacting with “disabled” kids. Their public elementary school has a great mainstreaming program. My youngest has made good friends with a girl with Down’s Syndrome in her kindergarten class. Even my older children know “Anna” and the whole school seems to just love her. Even the children who aren’t mainstreamed full time are brought to interact with their peers during music, art, lunch or other activities. We see several of them at Mass and my 3 always go to say hi during donuts. It gives me great hope that my children and their friends at school will appreciate the richness children who are different from them can add to society and to our lives.

  5. Thanks for this post and for your honesty. I think you are spot on in describing the feelings of someone who isn’t comfortable interacting with disabled people, and generous in sharing your thoughts.
    I’m impressed with people who are natural around others who are different and need a little getting to know. When you are raised to be a narcissist (sorry, that would be me :/ ), you just can’t imagine the other person’s feelings. Lots of times you need to experience things yourself to figure it out, unless someone is open enough to explain things. So thank you!

  6. […] I’ve said before how not-diverse my childhood was, and how difficult that made it for me to tr…. My mom says I have a tendency toward “scrupulosity.” In this case, that means I’ve spent my entire life worrying about whether I’m treating people the same regardless of skin color–or, I discovered later, disability. Knowing something in theory is not the same as having the chance to put it into practice when the lessons are being formed. For this reason I say that kids need to be around my daughter at least as much as she needs to be around them. Other kids need that interaction. […]

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