This is Arabella & her best friend Vanessa. They met in kindergarten in 2008-2009.
Everyday, Arabella would talk about Vanessa, and at each school party, they would beg to get together outside school.
When Arabella is with Vanessa, she doesn’t have special needs. She is a peer. Vanessa’s high expectations are better than any therapy. Arabella’s self-care skills improve leaps & bounds. It is a beautiful thing to watch.
Back in 2009, Vanessa asked me if Holden (my son without Down syndrome) was adopted….because he looked different from Arabella & Darin (Darin is adopted). We explained Down syndrome and she said she knew, her mom told her, but you could tell it didn’t matter to her.
Vanessa also told me that at Kindergarten Graduation, people thought she & Arabella were twins.
Four years have passed. Arabella and Vanessa go to different schools, and live 30 mins apart. Sometimes I worry Vanessa will outgrow her friendship with Arabella, while Arabella still adores her.
But that’s not my choice. So when Arabella asks (or when she asks everyday), I eventually initiate with Vanessa’s mom, to arrange a playdate. It’s up to Vanessa to determine if she’s outgrown Arabella.
This weekend, Vanessa came to spend the night…and the bond was as awesome as ever. Vanessa wrote “Arabella is my best friend” on a coloring page & read the things Arabella couldn’t understand to her. And they made Camp Rock reference & talked about Justin Beiber.
It brought joy to Arabella. It brought joy to me.
As the weekend ended, Vanessa said, “Arabella wouldn’t like to go to my school.”
I said, “Why?”
She said, “They have a separate room for them. And they are very mean to them. They yell at them.”
I knew who she meant. I knew she had encountered the “other” view of kids like Arabella.
So, I told her that most schools had those rooms. But that I didn’t let them put Arabella in there…
That I fought for her to be in a class with kids like Vanessa.
And I was filled with hope.
Because Vanessa will never be a mom, a teacher, an aunt, a friend who ignores the oppression of a person with Down syndrome.
She has truly known Arabella as a friend
with Down syndrome.