Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My talk on Down syndrome and the R Word

If you hadn't heard by now... today is the day to SPREAD THE WORD TO END THE WORD.  That word is Retard and Retarded.  We call it the R word.  The principal at my kids' school (TK to 8th gr) asked me to speak to the student body today... all in all about 250 students.



I gave this presentation two times today, March 3, 2010.  The first talk was geared toward TK (transitional Kindergarten) to 3rd grade students.  The second talk, which are the slides below, was for 4th through 8th grade.  Since my kids go to a Catholic school, I included the faith component on a few slides.

Both presentations went very well -- the students were quiet, attentive, and asked great questions.  One of my favorite questions from the older kids was, "How did you feel when the doctor told you John Michael had Down syndrome?"  I answered honestly and told her I was very sad and afraid, but the doctor told me to love him like I would any of our other kids and in time I would learn about Down syndrome and what it meant for our family. 

I was asked about John Michael's life expectancy, whether I thought he would go to college or marry, what kind of learning problems would he have, what other health problems do people with Ds have, why is it called "Down syndrome", and why am I pregnant.  That came from a young student... I thought it was funny.  One girl asked if John Michael got more attention than kids like her.  I smiled and told her, "YES!  But that's because he's got the cuteness thing going for him right now.  I wonder how many people will pay attention to him when he's an adult and they look at his face and decide they don't want to talk to him."  That's why I'm doing this... to hopefully smooth out an easier path for John Michael and his buddies.  Only time will tell.  One boy asked me why there were blue dots on my slides.  OK, so not all the questions were fantastic, but in general, the kids kept raising their hands and I finally had to stop them.

After discussing Down syndrome and the dignity and value of each person, I spoke about the R word... emphasizing that we need to make "respect" the new R word.  I think most of the kids got it and afterwards I invited them to sign posters I'd made up with the r-word.org graphics.  After Q&A, I invited John Michael to come up and say 'hi'.  Nic brought him up and John Michael smiled and waved at everyone.  Many kids got up and crowded around JM to give him high fives.  It was very cute.  Then he would walk away and they would literally chase him to be with him.  And, yes, he put on his cuteness big time! 

I am posting my slides, but I ask that you not use them without my permission.  I put A LOT of time and effort into this presentation, neglecting my family's needs for many nights... but I do want to share the content with you.  If you want to use my information, great... but please do not use any of my personal photos.  My daughter, Anna's constructive criticism was that I should've included more faces/ages of Ds.  I agree.  Nic also said it would be nice to incude well-known people with Ds, like Chris Burke or others that really stand out as self-advocates.  Another good idea.  This talk was a starting point.  The feedback has been great so far.  The video clips were really what tied it all together and made it a much more interesting and relevant presentation.



I guess the saddest part of the day was when the kids and I were all settled in the car and ready to go home.  Anna said a girl sitting behind her whispered "Retard" through most of my talk.  I wasn't surprised by that particular girl, but it still bothers me.  And someone else heard the "R" word within 5 minutes of my talk finishing.  Those kids don't get it... YET!  I hope they grow out of their immaturity or perhaps that one of their friends will have the courage to ask them to stop saying it.  We'll see...

21 comments:

  1. Great job Monica! So proud of you and may need to "hire" you out to all the local schools. Great presentation...so much love and thoughtfulness was put into it. You are such a wonderful advocate and what a great example you are to your kids and their student body!

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  2. This is awesome! The last paragraph makes me sad though. :( I guess there will be some kids who never get it, and we can just hope that some of them DO get it.

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  3. Wow! What an awesome job you did! Great presentation...I know many kids probably shared this information around their dinner table tonight with their parents...just wonderful! Thanks for being the mommy you are to JM! You are inspiring!s

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  4. Fantastic, Monica!! I'm so impressed by you and what an amazing woman, mom, and advocate you are! I got a kick out of your comment about the kid who asked about the dots on your slides. Too funny. I wish I could have been there to see your presentation "live." It sounds like it was amazing. You've touched a lot of lives today, and that number will only continue to grow as they share the message with others. Way to go!

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  5. What a great opportunity! Your presentation looks warm, friendly, and informative. Glad you had the opportunity to speak to these kids. I think I'll show your slides to my kids too.

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  6. Good job, love your story!
    Gr
    Maud

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  7. Fabulous, Monica!! That was an amazing presentation, and even though there were still some kids who still don't seem to get it now, I'm sure your message is still living in the backs of their minds somewhere and maybe one day they'll think about it. John Michael's quite a charmer!

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  8. how awesome. There will always be those kids (parents, etc) who just dont get it. Did you do your slides on power point?

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  9. The ending broke my heart... but other than that, it was so amazing! Good for you! You are a fantastic Mommy!

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  10. The ending broke my heart too. Maybe it was said in response to someone asking "What's the R word"? You know how some kids zone out during presentations and then need to come up to speed by asking questions--a stretch I know--just trying to look for a bright side.

    Anyway, awesome presentation! Thank you so much for taking the time to educate others. One step at a time, we will make this world a bit kinder for us all. No doubt that you made a big impact today.

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  11. Monica congratulations on a beautiful presentation. I love that you added in the Catholic quotes.

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  12. It is great that you were able to speak at your school. I know it is a word used at the school my boys go to, way too often. Even after discussions, the kids don't really get why the word hurts so much. Please keep up your great efforts! You have inspired me to go to our principal and offer to speak next year.

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  13. Wow, Monica!! What a great presentation.....you can tell that it was done with lots of love and just perfect for that age group. It's so important to reach these children at this age (before years of stereotypes kick in). It's also a plus for our children, so others will have informative information and all of their questions answered, to help make it a smooth transition. It's clear to see in the last paragraph how cruel kids can be. "ALL" of your children are so lucky to have you for their mama! I'm sure you reached lots of those children! You are a truly inspiring:)

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  14. Wow! I am seriously amazed at all of the work and time you put into your presentation. It looks so good! The slides were such a great idea and so full of great information for the kids. And the pics of John Michael are beautiful. I loved it!

    As far as the kids still saying the "R-word", just like Kevin's 7th grade talk (Finnian's Journey) on youtube said (something to the effect of) "some of you will say,'this talk is so retarded' and think you are being funny. But others will walk away with a desire to not say that word anymore'. There will always be brats out there but your presentation will leave a positive effect on the majority of the kids and that's what counts!!!

    JM is lucky to have such a great advocate for his mom!

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  15. What a lovely presentation Monica!!! I cannot help but think which of those kids will grow up to have a prenatal diagnosis themselves. Perhaps they will remember this little seed that was planted, and welcome a little one with ds into their lives. Thank you for sharing all your hard work :)

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  16. Wow Monica...that was beautiful! You did such
    a great job!!

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  17. Awesome work Monica! Your slides have inspired me to create my own. I actually got to talk to a high school class in December last year but I didn't have the fancy and elaborate presentation like you did. I only brought Matthew, a photo book I created about his first year, the Gifts 2 book, and my experience. I have yet to blog about it. Hopefully soon!
    I hope all is going well with your pregnancy too.

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  18. such a great job! love this!

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  19. what a wonderful job you did on the slide show presentation! and how great that the kids were so enthusiastic and had so many great questions!

    Too bad that girl had to put a damper on it by saying that throughout the presentation! :(

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  20. Beautifuly done, I loved it! One of my biggest fears is sending Russell to school one day. I hold him tight sometimes and look down on him and think how now, right now, I can keep him safe and protect him and hug him close...but one day I will have to let him go, go out into a world that may not always treat him nice...and I am scared. If all schools and all children were able to see a presentation as beautiful as yours it could make such an impact on how our children are seen and treated by others. You really did a wonderful job!
    I have found a lot of comfort reading blogs by other Mothers, seeing how happy their children are, how normal their families are...it helps me to see that I dont need to worry and that Down Syndrome is not as scarey as I once thought. I am glad I stopped by your blog :)

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