Saturday, October 15, 2011

Not just a father.

Welcome to my blog.  I don't anticipate many visits because I am not really going to put myself out there for the whole world to see.  I'm not trying to sell anything and I'm certainly not about shameless self promotion.  If there's one thing I've learned in my 32 years it's that life is definitely NOT about me.

However, I do feel like I have a unique perspective when it comes to people with Down syndrome.  I am a father and teacher of children with DS.  My son, Judah, who will be 6 years old soon has Down syndrome.  Not so rare you might think for a parent to blog about their life raising a kid with DS.  I've seen many and enjoy reading about other parents' adventures with their own little buddies.  I am also a first year teacher.  My class is for students with moderate intellectual disabilities (mental retardation) grades kindergarten through 3rd grade.  I have 7 students in my class, 4 of which have Down syndrome.

My little buddy, Judah.

I've lived a fairly exciting life even before my son was born, but especially over the past 6 years.  I've been married for almost 10 years and along with Judah, my wife and I have two beautiful girls, one older, and one younger than him.  I've always done my own thing and been a bit of an outsider, not by force, but by choice.  "I'm a loner Dottie... a rebel." I can't say that I really like to stand out so much as I'm just not a follower. I never have been.  So when my wife and I found out we were to have a child with Down syndrome, I can't say that I was surprised.  It just made sense.  We struggled a bit with life and faith as you might imagine and just a few months after Judah was born we decided the best thing for our family would be to move from my hometown of Fort Worth, Texas to my wife's hometown in the vast desert of Arizona.

After Judah was born I began thinking seriously about returning to college to become a special ed teacher.  I went to Dallas Baptist University for a few semesters right after I graduated from high school in 1997.  At the time, it just wasn't for me.  I had other interests and plans and dropped out after a year and a half.  I went on to live my life, get married, start a family, etc.  I had a couple of careers, first as a UPS driver and then as an electrician.  With the arrival of my new little buddy I returned to college in January 2006 when he was only 3 months old.  I graduated with honors in May 2011 with a dual major in elementary and special education.  I also obtained a structured English immersion certificate from Northern Arizona University.

If you knew me in Jr. and High school that may come as a surprise to you.  When I was younger all I cared about was skateboarding and punk rock.  I hated school.  I had no idea that I was capable of getting A's, or even honor's for that matter.  It's amazing what responsibility and life will do to you.

Judah with his little sister Aveline at a car show.

I just began my teaching career and Judah just began grade school this August.  I teach his friends in the special ed class and he goes to a general education kindergarten class that just so happens to be right next door to mine.  Yes, Judah is totally mainstreamed.  No, he is not some super Down syndrome whiz kid either.  Let me explain.

I became a teacher for Judah, so that I could be the best father for him.  It's really that simple.  I would not be a teacher if Judah did not exist.  He changed my life and in turn I have chosen a career that will change his and hopefully help the lives of others like him.

The more I learned the more I fell in love with people with Down syndrome (I like to call them "buddies") and the more I came to grips with the fact that the best thing for Judah may NOT be for me to be his teacher.  So we're just taking the mainstream deal one year at a time.

We are coming up on the first grading period of the school year, Judah's 6th birthday and it just so happens to be October, Down syndrome awareness month.  Which is why I started this blog.  I love my career!  I love teaching students with disabilities, especially buddies.  I already have a grip of stories to tell and the school year is just barely getting started.  I hope you can be encouraged by my adventures with my own little buddy and my students.

About the name of this blog: JUST LISTEN HARDER.  While in college a young lady about 27 years old with Down syndrome spoke to one of my education classes.  While taking questions, I asked her "As a father of a child with Down syndrome what is the best advice you can give me?" She replied "Just listen.  If you don't understand what he's saying just listen harder."

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