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A big change

When your parents were schoolkids, many children with Down syndrome didn’t go to class with their peers. Instead, they were sent to different schools or even lived in special homes with other disabled people.

Today, most kids with Down syndrome learn in regular classrooms with other kids. They may get some extra help, or go to a few special classes, but they are part of the school community.

Focus on ability

When you describe your friends to people who don’t know them, you probably tell something about how they look or what they do well. For example: “You know my friend Emily. She’s a soccer player, with long dark hair. She’s a great singer.”

Kids with Down syndrome like to be identified by their abilities, too, rather than by their disability. Jack might have Down syndrome, but he’s also on the swim team and tells funny jokes.

Feelings

Sometimes kids with Down syndrome are made fun of or called names. This hurts their feelings, just as it would hurt yours. If you see a kid bullying another, don’t laugh or join in. Tell the bully it’s not funny.

Being a good friend

Your friends or classmates with Down syndrome can do most of the activities that you and others enjoy. But they may need your patience and help along the way.

For instance, if you and your buddies plan to go hiking, ask your friend with DS to come along. You might have to hike a little more slowly – and as a result, you might have a chance to see an animal or an interesting plant that you would have missed without your friend.

Giving back

You can care for your friends with Down syndrome by organizing events or clubs that include them. Your family could help you plan an outing for each school quarter, maybe going out to eat, going ice skating or seeing a movie. Your group might finish the year with a dance party at school.

Students can also volunteer for Special Olympics. One volunteer who is now in college began helping when she was in the second grade.