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What Helped My Daughter With Down Syndrome Navigate Challenges at Preschool

During her bath, my 5-year old daughter said to me, “Mommy, I have a good idea.” “What’s that, Hazel?” I asked her. Taking her bath blocks, she stacked one up on the edge of the tub. “This is a hill.” Then she took two more blocks and stacked them next to the first. “And this is a mountain.” We talked for a minute about hills and mountains, then she moved on to play with another toy.

My husband and I hear “I have a good idea” from Hazel frequently these days. Whether it’s an idea for a tea party, acting out a Daniel Tiger or Fancy Nancy episode, or simply suggesting a “good idea” of cookies for dessert or extra TV time, Hazel is an ideas queen. She’s also a savvy negotiator, with a “I was just asking” response said in a slightly exasperated tone when her dad or I say no to a “good idea,” often for a very good reason.

My daughter Hazel, who has Down syndrome, is a force. She is a sweet, smart, strong-willed, stubborn, and sassy little girl. In previous essays , I have written about Hazel’s diagnosis, how Down syndrome is simply a part of our family’s day-to-day life, and as parents to only Hazel, we only know how to raise our child in one way—with unconditional love.

All that I’ve written before remains true and I wouldn’t change a word. My life is better with Hazel in it, and I love my little girl to the moon and back. But it would be disingenuous if I didn’t share that last year was hard. Hazel’s behavior became more challenging. She began eloping regularly at preschool and home. Transitions became meltdowns and tantrums. School became less of a comfort—for Hazel and for me—as we navigated these challenges. More IEP meetings, strained conversations with the school director, and little to no feedback from her teacher

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Daniel Tiger Fancy Nancy


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