I recently watched a video about a boy with Down syndrome who was included in a general education setting. The video gave a picture of the successes and the challenges of such a placement for this student.
I cried at a lunchroom scene in the film. The student, who had some behaviors that were worsening in 6th grade, sat at the lunch table with a group of other boys. Without warning and quick as lightning, the boy reached over and grabbed another student’s bread roll right off his tray. The breadless boy and another student demanded the return of the roll, telling the boy that “you can’t take someone else’s food!”
But the boy held the roll tightly in his fist and refused its return, ignoring his friends’ pleas.
Finally, the breadless boy and all of the other boys got up and moved together to another table, shaking their heads in disgust and frustration. The boy was left at the table all alone with his stolen piece of bread still clenched tightly.
It was heartbreaking to watch. The boys tried to reason with the bread thief. They tried to be patient and reminded him of the social rules. But in the end, they became frustrated and left.
You can’t blame them. They are kids—hungry kids. And basically, their rights were violated. No, you cannot blame those boys at all. I mean, who knows what else the boy may snatch before they have a chance to eat it. How many items has he snatched from them over the years while he struggled to control his impulses? Even the best of friends, the most patient of saints, has limitations and feelings.
I don’t exaggerate when I say that only one day later, I got word from school that my daughter Chloe had snatched her best friend’s cake pop at lunch. Yes! Seriously. Snatched it quick as lightning right from her lunch bag. And … and licked it!
The movie played out in my head—all the girls getting up, angry, and leaving Chloe at the table to finish her lunch alone.
But instead, Chloe’s best friend simply snatched the cake pop back, wiped it off, and ate it. Because that’s what best friends do. And because Chloe’s best friend responded like she did, no one got up and left, no one got angry—although I’m guessing Chloe was the recipient of several stern lectures from her friends about behaving appropriately and respecting others. And she deserved it.
But you can be sure that I’m terrified for the day Chloe’s best friends run out of patience. I am still very much aware of that possibility. And it makes me sad.
But today, I’m grateful. Grateful for friendship.
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