Something happened to me today that squeezed my heart so tightly, and left me filled with wonder.  

It happened when I picked my four year old daughter, Ryleigh, up from school.

Normally, I walk into her classroom each day, chat with her teachers for a moment, then we head on our way. 

Today was an exception, and I have felt completely indebted since we left.

Ryleigh’s classroom is designated the “PMD” class.  This acronym sounds much more pleasant than the actual name: Profoundly Mentally Disabled. 

She transferred to this class recently from a Special Needs Preschool class. 

In the Preschool class, she was the least “abled” of any student and really wasn’t on track with any of her peers. 

They could run, jump and do things that I could only imagine someday seeing her achieve. 

But, the liveliness of the children gave me hope for her. 

When she transferred schools, the label of PMD was seriously hard for me to swallow. 

How despairing and hopeless it made me feel.  I wanted to cry on the first day of her transition. 

Until I opened my heart and my mind and saw this amazing class in action. 

Her new classmates were beyond charming! 

The room was filled with an array of adaptive equipment that would accommodate her needs. 

There was a bounty of special toys that would challenge her to meet new goals.   In a short time, I had renamed it the Positively Motivated and Determined class!

Inclusion is a key part of her day in the new class. 

She spends time with a typical Kindergarten class. 

Her teachers (who are marvelous, by the way!) have been sharing with me how much the kindergarteners adore Ryleigh and how she loves interacting with them. 

From the start, this sounded like a fantastic concept to me! 

They were teaching empathy and acceptance to kindergarten students, while making my child feel included. 

When I arrived to pick her up at school today, I was greeted by several five year olds from the kindergarten class –dancing, laughing, smiling and enjoying ice cream by the playground. 

Nestled in the middle of this handful of boys and girls sat my daughter, in her wheelchair. 

Her teacher was feeding her ice cream while these children lovingly hovered over her. 

As I approached, one student asked if she could feed Ryleigh.  One little girl asked if Ryleigh could go home with her. 

Another was telling Ryleigh a story and making her laugh. 

Not only were they interacting with her, they LOVED her! 

One sweet child asked if I was her Mom. Then she said to me, “she is pretty, just like you.” 

I felt a tear stinging my eye. 

No one was staring at her being spoon fed. 

Nobody was laughing at her wheelchair or pointing at her leg braces.  She was laughing with them and she was being included in the fun.  She wasn’t an outsider looking in. 

They were focused on HER and they brought the party to HER.  They were her friends! 

A child told me that she wished Ryleigh was her sister.  As I listened to them and watched them admire her, I admired them right back. 

They treated her like she was a SUPERSTAR. 

My heart was moved and my soul was elated. 

For their kindness and acceptance, I was so very grateful. 

Thank you, compassionate little ones, for not only being my daughter’s friends, but also for making her feel like a superstar. 

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