It is rare enough to still be newsworthy when a high school student with Down syndrome is elected by his peers to be Homecoming King or Queen. For those of us who grew up in schools where we never met a person with Down syndrome before our son or daughter was born, these stories can be life changing.
When my son was a baby, I was sitting with him in a car in a parking lot near our home as the local high school's homecoming parade moved along the street in front of me. It was a gorgeous evening and the floats were wonderful. The sidewalk was full of students and families and my windows were rolled down so we experienced the full effect of music, shouting and laughter. I was searching, searching, searching the crowd for one teenager who had Down syndrome. A dozen might have passed and I would not have known, but I felt I did know. I hung my head down and cried for everything that would not be. I hid my face in the sweet crook of his neck and tried to calm down. He was having nothing of this! He wiggled and gurgled and then fussed until he could see the people moving in the dark again. He made me laugh.
Many years later when his sister was in high school, he came along to pick her up after she and her classmates finished working on their year's homecoming float. There were a few last minute items to take care of so he naturally joined right in. Two years later when he arrived at our neighborhood high school, we arrived early to see how his year's float looked while his sister and her friends worked on their entry.
It turned out that some of his dear friends from mainstream kindergarten were working on the homecoming float committee, and others knew him from the first few weeks of school. As they were preparing to pull away, some students were asked not to ride because there was a limit imposed by the administration for safety reasons. But at the last minute, there was room for one more, and there went my son to sit in the middle of the scene all the way to the stadium.
The next year, my son attended an after-school meeting for homecoming float planning. They had already met once or twice and decided that the theme for their year would be The Wizard of Oz. As luck would have it, the costume designer for my son's acting troupe had a full set of WoZ costumes from a production a year earlier. Not only did the kids create a wonderful float scene, the students in the costumes he borrowed for them rode on the float. My son wore the lion costume and roared all along the parade route.
When we walked into the bleachers afterward for the game, from several groups who had already arrived, I heard them call his name. "Come sit here! Come sit here with us!" There was room for one more everywhere we looked. He decided where he wanted to be, and sat down with friends. I was looking for a place nearby, but they made a place for me there, too. That was a wonderful homecoming for me.
Browse at your local party stores, department stores or online retailers for items like floral sheeting for parade floats or artificial turf animals. Of course there are also wonderful books about individuals with Down syndrome who have grown up included and make a huge positive difference in their communities!
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