By: Sara Van Deurzen, Site Coordinator, Gigi’s Playhouse

As a site coordinator for a local Down Syndrome Achievement Center, my eyes and my heart are re-opened every day. Since being here, I have become more aware of the amazing individuals and their families who routinely walk through our doors and I love watching the kids learn and grow. I also enjoy following their stories on social media as they celebrate milestones, big and small. We need more of this, not just during awareness months or at centers that specialize in helping children, but throughout our communities and in our schools.

As a former special education teacher and administrator, and the mom of two very different kids, I have learned so much. My daughter, Violet, was born with a rare birth defect called Encephalocele which has primarily affected her cognitive functioning and ability to regulate emotions. On a particularly rough morning, I needed reflection (and coffee), so I decided to dive into some old files I kept when I needed a dose of inspiration to get through the day. I came across these thoughts below. As I read and reflected on my own life, I realized how important it was to re-read these words as I am continually looking for more ways to support Violet and the rest of my family.

I hope you will join me in acting upon these practices in our journey as parents and caregivers and I know that we can all work together to make this world a better and more accepting place for everyone.

Here’s to more; more love, more support, more kindness, more positivity, more understanding and more action!

Awareness is knowing that you have a classmate with a disability.

Acceptance is inviting him or her to hang out with you.

Awareness is simply realizing that someone has a challenge.

Acceptance is engaging in a real conversation with them.

Awareness is seeing someone with a disability do something you maybe didn’t expect.

Acceptance is telling them they are awesome, cheering them on or working together with them.

Awareness is saying you have a friend with a disability.

Acceptance is truly being a good friend to them.

Awareness is appreciating the gifts and challenges of those with different abilities.

Acceptance is volunteering your time to help.

Awareness is agreeing with these statements.

Acceptance is sharing them.

Awareness does not imply doing anything different.

Acceptance is taking action.

While it is good to be aware, we must strive to accept and empower children and adults of all abilities. Everyone has strengths and challenges, and gifts to share.

How do you practice acceptance in your daily life?

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