This week was a bit of a big deal in our world. You see, yesterday marked the last day of Canadian Down Syndrome Awareness Week! Each year, from November 1st to 7th we help educate our friends and family about Down syndrome and celebrate the accomplishments and lives of individuals with Down syndrome. This year, Ella and I were privileged to be able to do a presentation for her class. It was particularly significant this year because Ella was able to share her new book with her friends, some of who played a big role in helping promote the project and raise money for the publication process. You can watch the promotional video below:
How This is Ella came to be
Like most parents, I was very nervous about my daughter’s transition into kindergarten. I wasn’t worried, however, about Ella’s reaction to her new environment. Ella is extremely charismatic, fun-loving and very friendly. I was confident that she would settle in with no problem – she loved school, she loved being with her friends and she loved learning. I knew all of this from her preschool experience. No, I was worried about the reaction of the administration, the teachers and the other students. You see, the idea of “disability” is a social construct. It is a stigma that we have placed on people of historical difference or deviation from what we, as society, consider normal. Often times that deviation or difference or the unknown in general, can be scary or, to a lesser degree, it can spark curiosity, especially when a child has not grown up with diversity – cultural, neurological or socio-economical. Even our son, who was with Ella from the day she was born would sometimes ask questions such as, “when do you think Ella will speak properly?” or “Ella resembles Bea” (another little friend of ours who has Trisomy 21). We knew that going into school, he would not be the only child to take note of Ella’s differences. That being said, we also knew then and continue to believe that Ella is more the same than different. She wants to be accepted and included just like any child and just because she has trouble saying some words, it doesn’t mean that she can’t be a good friend.
To help her peers understand this, I wrote a book entitled, This is Ella. It pointed out some of the things that make Ella different but mostly things about Ella that the children could relate to such as riding a bike, or counting to ten or being silly. The book was a big hit! The children loved it and the teacher loved it.
This is Ella teaches readers that diversity is a beautiful aspect of the world that we live in. Some of us have blue eyes and some of us have brown eyes. Some of us have to practice sitting still while some of us have to practice playing the piano. Some children are good at reading, while others are better at math, or art or playing soccer. We all have different strengths. Each one of us represents a different colour in a beautiful collage and we all have something unique and meaningful to contribute to our communities because community is as much about giving as it is about receiving.
Over the years, many parents of children with Down syndrome who were approaching the school years asked our Down syndrome community about how to educate teachers, parents and classmates about their child’s diagnosis. This is Ella was often referred to and I have had the privilege of sharing it many times over. For this reason, I decided it was finally time to make the book accessible for all. I am more than thrilled to be able to share Ella, and her vivacious spirit, with the world. You can purchase the book here.
OR come purchase a copy in person on November 26th at the Strathcona Chapters. Ella and I will be there doing story time at 12:15pm and signing books afterwards.