I mentioned briefly, last Friday, that I recently worked on a poster project for Down Syndrome Awareness Month. And although I do not have permission to share those images here (yet!), I do want to talk about the project.
Last summer, just as the school year was wrapping up and Isaac was about to move out of preschool and into Kindergarten, his preschool contacted me to see if I would be interested in working with them on creating posters for Down Syndrome Awareness Month. I had recently made a series of posters for Autism Awareness Month…a project that was a full-scale labor of love…and a project that went over really, really well. (One staff recently told me “those posters were the talk of the town. Seriously.”) So, when they pitched the idea for Down Syndrome month, I jumped at it. And I am so glad I did.
This time the school did ALL of the leg work of contacting families and getting permission. They just told me when and where to show up. The school has a smaller population of kids with Down Syndrome than kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder, but *most* of the families of children with Down Syndrome signed up to participate! And 4 out of the 6 families participating wanted one or both parents to be included with the child in the photo.
We all met at a playground down the block from the school. One little boy was carried down by a staff member because he’s not yet able to walk. One little girl rode on her dad’s shoulders and another little girl walked very, very slowly with her teacher. When we got to the playground, I told everyone to just go ahead and play and I would go around, one by one, to photograph the children.
Some of the kids were sprightly and silly and bursting with spirit. I was warned that I might have to chase around one little girl. “no worries!” I said. “I would LOVE to chase her around! That’s something I’m definitely used to!” And her mom and I chased her down while I got great shots of her spunk and spirit. Another little girl was not very responsive. She was compliant with everything her teacher asked her do, but she wouldn’t look at me and she certainly wouldn’t smile. But, little did she know, I brought something for her. I sat with her in the grass and pulled a small pumpkin out of my bag. “can you hold my pumpkin?” I asked her. Her eyes lit up and she leaned forward to get the pumpkin. She rolled it around in the grass and smacked the top of it with her hands. I’m telling you, pumpkins are transformative. It was so heartwarming to watch her.
But there was one little boy that really impacted me most of all. He looks like he has had a rough go with Down Syndrome. It seems to have affected him more than it’s affected some of the other kids. Or perhaps he has more affecting him than just Down Syndrome. He was playing on the slide when I got to him and I asked him if he could go to the top of the slide so I could get some photos of him going down. He looked up at me and smiled and he went up the stairs to the slide like it was Very Important Work. He triumphantly got to the top, sat down and looked at me with a look of pride and joy at his hard work. He had made it to the top! And his mom and I cheered for him and encouraged him to come down, which he happily did.
When I was editing his photos later, I was so, so taken with this little guy. His warrior spirit AND with his mama’s fierce love for him really impacted me. I am so glad I met this little boy. I was so moved watching him interact with his mama and seeing how incredibly strong a mama’s love can be.
I feel so honored that the school asked me back to work on these posters and work with these kids. It’s such a moving project for me. :) And I am really, really pleased with how the posters turned out.
But…you’ll either have to take my word for it, or stop by the school to have a look for yourself! :)
And as an anti-climatic ending to this post, I made this lovely Apple Chunk Bread. It’s not as important as the posters for the school and definitely not as moving… but it sure is yummy. ;) Recipe from this cookbook.