St Micheal’s House in my opinion is a happy school for children with Down syndrome or any other kind of syndrome. The children are praised for what they do in their day-to-day work. They don’t have excellent written on their spellings; they don’t have A, B C’s on their report cards. They are praised for doing good deeds and for doing their work. Parents of children with Down syndrome are often told by doctors their children will never be clever or they may never finish school or go to work or live on their own. That’s not true. I can tell you that cos I work with these children and every day they impress me with their tasks that are in front of them. Each week they improve on little things. These little things make the difference. We all can learn it doesn’t matter who we are or what we have.
We learn but children with special needs like Down syndrome just learn a bit slower than others. This is why I can relate to these children. Myself I have a syndrome called 22q deletion syndrome. Some people thought I wouldn’t be able to learn. But I prove everyone wrong. So do children with Down syndrome and other special needs.
So that is why they go home from school happy. They are told by teachers and SNA’s that they can do it. If a child says “I can’t” they are told they can. That is why I love being an SNA in St Michael’s House as it’s the school I went to and back then I was told by my teacher and SNA that I can do it.
But now it’s my turn to pass on the wisdom. Children with Down syndrome or any other child love being told that their brilliant, that they are good, to do it again.
The children also get stickers for rewards. The school has a good way of encouraging the children. I always see this each week and I always say why can’t every other school be like this one? One where you can be yourself. Even me as I work there I can be myself and I don’t have to try and fit in. There’s just something special about the school. Okay, everyone has ups and downs but in this school you can just be you and that’s so much better for children who learn different. They don’t feel bullied or under pressure.
Children themselves would do better without report cards. Back in my day they were no use to me. But all I can do as an SNA is be there for the child when he or she says “I can’t do this”. I am able to say ‘yes you can’ because I have been there.
Áine Lawlor 30/10/15