Remember they are individuals. People. People with emotions. People with dreams. People with fears. People worth getting to know.
Teach your children that individuals with disabilities are people. I can talk until I am blue in the face about Hailey and others with Down syndrome. I can try to bust every stereotype, myth and misconception, but if you don't pass this information onto your children, I am wasting my time. Your sons and daughters are the children my daughter is going to encounter every day. They are her peers and they will be her co-workers one day. I need them to accept her, also.
Please show your children that Hailey and others with DS are just like them. They are little boys and girls that like playing soccer, swimming, playing dolls, playing cars, etc. Explain to them what sign language is. Explain that they aren't flapping their arms aimlessly...they are communicating just as your child speaks. If they have a child with DS in their life that uses sign language, teach your child a few of the signs. My nieces and nephews love learning sign language and talking to Hailey. They love knowing what she is signing. Teach your children that she is not to be feared because she isn't developing at the same rate as your child.
Teach them that mocking her or using the r-word is mean and disrespectful. Teach them to respect her as I will teach her to respect people.
A place to start? Here are a few books that you can read to your child about children with Down syndrome (for younger children). Choose one!
Let's Paint the Octopus Red by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
My Friend Isabelle by Eliza Woloson and Bryan Gough
Thank you from Hailey!!