My experience working with a Down syndrome child was during the 2010-2011 school year. I was employed as a special education assistant at Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke, Va. According to the National Down Syndrome Society, 1 in every 691 babies born in the United States has Down syndrome.
I worked with a 19-year-old student named Robert (not his real name). A behavior specialist named Mr. Gardner also worked with Robert and me. Robert resisted almost every activity planned for him. He was very stubborn to say the least. If Robert was frustrated at the smallest thing he would take one of his shoes off and throw it. He also threw books, forks, and spoons. The icing on the cake was the fact that Robert was nonverbal. He communicated by making sounds. Every activity Robert did was to prepare him to participate in his graduation ceremony.
Robert had healthy eating habits. His favorite food to eat at lunch time was salad with ranch dressing. Some days were better than others when it was time for Robert to eat lunch. He was unable to grip his eating utensils as a result of his poor motor skills. Feeding Robert was like feeding a 12-15 month old toddler. I smiled through it all. I was happy to help him anyway I could.
After months of trial and error, graduation day had arrived! Things were going well prior to the ceremony for the exception of Mr. Gardner and I making Robert keep his graduation cap on. He must have taken it off at least 50 times before the ceremony. It seemed like an eternity waiting for things to pick up. Finally! The line of graduates started moving.
Roberts’s behavior changed once the line started moving. As usual, he threw his shoe. Mr. Gardner grabbed him by one hand and I had his other hand along with his shoe. We made it to the stage! The audience stood to their feet as Robert walked across the stage! He did it! I couldn’t believe it! The reward was being apart of Roberts life that year. If I could do it all over again the only thing I would change is the fact that I walked across the stage with both of my shoes on. It was all worth it in the end! Robert did it his way!