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Sophie Tours Junior High with a Very Special Escort

posted Tuesday January 28th, 2014

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A note came home from the principal last Friday.

Tell Sophie I’m wearing purple on Monday! 

It was not your typical note home. It is not your typical situation. I’ve been talking with the principal at Sophie’s elementary school since August about where she’ll go to junior high. It’s a big decision for any kid, but more so for Sophie. A press release reminded me yesterday morning that this is National School Choice Week.

Not quite. Not for kids with Down syndrome, not in Arizona, anyway. Not for Sophie.

When we met in August, the principal gently suggested that the feeder junior high in our district would be the best spot for Sophie. I resisted, claimed I could find the “perfect fit,” and set off to do just that, touring charter schools, searching for private options, even toying (for about 15 seconds) with home schooling. I watched as pretty much every friend Sophie has signed up for a boutique school run by the district that she can’t attend.

I sat in the principal’s office earlier this month. I’m ready to look at the feeder junior high, I said. He smiled gently and never said, “I told you so.”

There’s nothing special about this junior high except that it is the school Sophie is “supposed” to go to, and it does have a special education department. It’s big, it’s not really in our neighborhood, we don’t know many kids (if any) who are going. It doesn’t have a particularly good reputation — for anything. Not a bad one, either. But in a world where you’re supposed to be able to retrofit your school choice experience to your precise needs, it feels clunky. It’s also pretty much all there is.

“I want to take Sophie over myself,” the principal said. He explained that he figured that if the folks at the school saw that someone in a position of authority was taking an interest in Sophie, they would, too. So it was arranged.

Sophie planned a special outfit yesterday — she tucked her hair back in a headband (after announcing she’s growing out her bangs), chose a sparkly sweater, cool pants and shoes and her “What Does the Fox Say” shirt.

Shortly after lunch, I had a note from the principal:

Hello Amy!  We’re back and we both had a great experience.  We spent a big chunk of our time in the library checking out their collection.  The librarian was very helpful.  We also sat in on auditions for a solo performance with the choir…..which Sophie loved.  Touring the lunchroom and stage area was also very important.  Sophie asked to go back and take one more look at the Choir room which we did.  At that time the teacher was on her prep period and gave Sophie lots of information, listened to her sing and watched her dance.  The principal caught up with us to chat for a bit.    It was  a very nice experience and I think Sophie enjoyed it.  I know I enjoyed OUR time together.  Thanks for letting me take her.

When I got home, Sophie confirmed that it was a good visit, reporting that this school has choir and cheerleading and the school color is purple.

“I want to go there!” she announced, grinning.

It’s a start. And it’s all thanks to the principal. How many school principals would take an entire morning to take one kid to tour a school? (Remember, this is also the guy who wore purple fuzzy pajamas to Sophie’s birthday party; they do share a birthday, after all.) This guy’s a keeper. I just wish we could keep him.

But we don’t have to leave him quite yet. He’s scheduled a tour of the feeder junior high for Ray and me next month, and is insisting on coming along.

They say it takes a village and it’s true. But sometimes that saying discounts the role of the individual: the surgeon who fixed the hole in Sophie’s heart, the physical therapist who taught her to walk, the ballet teacher who makes her feel included, the best friend who makes her so happy.

And this guy.


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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome by Amysilverman

7 Responses to “Sophie Tours Junior High with a Very Special Escort”

  1. And you and Ray and Annabelle

  2. Crying at my desk. As usual.

  3. This makes my heart sing! I love the fact that there are Principals in Arizona schools that “get it.” I am a retired Art Teacher, and have been lucky to have worked with a couple of amazing Principals, I am glad some are still out there!
    Hugs to your wonderful Mom!

  4. This guy wins the internet.

  5. Sophie’s smile is priceless. It sounds like things went really well.

  6. Do they need any teachers of the deaf at Sophie’s current school? Because I would love to work with a principal like that!

    I am so glad Sophie felt good about her visit to junior high school.

  7. So glad to read about Sophie’s experience and this wonderful principal. Good luck.

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