Meet Jack. A six year old little boy who is changing the face of beauty.
Words from Jack’s Mom:
I was 13 weeks pregnant when we learned that we were having a boy. We learned that our sweet boy would be born with Down syndrome. Our life seemed so perfect. I married the love of my life, we bought a house, we got pregnant. I had begun to share with all of my friends and co-workers that I was expecting. Then, we received the phone call. The geneticist told me there was a 1/31 chance that our baby had Down Syndrome. I was 27 years old at the time. Down syndrome was not even a thought in my mind. We wanted to know for sure so that we could plan and be prepared. I had further testing to confirm what I already knew in my heart was true. Knowing my Jack now, it is hard to say that I grieved the baby that I was expecting. While there was raw sadness and fear in those early days, we came to a point where we couldn’t wait to meet our baby boy. The rest of my pregnancy was happy… a celebration of the new baby that was about to join our family. I dreamed of what his face would look like. I couldn’t wait to hold him against my chest and look in his eyes and tell him that I loved him. I held my belly and felt that fierce love that every mother feels for their baby.
When Jack was born, to us, he was perfect in every way! While we had a few medical struggles, he was just like every other baby. That baby quickly grew into a happy, beautiful toddler full of wonder. That happy toddler has now become an amazing little boy. Today is where I want to focus our story because that perfect life I thought I was living 7 years ago can’t even compare to amazing life that we are living today. Those early tears of fear have turned to tears of pride and love.
Let me tell you about our Jack because not only do I feel he has changed the face of beauty (he is pretty handsome) but he also is changing the face and perception of disability. Jack is now 6 years old. He is in first grade. We have pushed for Jack to be in an integrated classroom since he began preschool. In kindergarten he entered an integrated co-taught classroom. This is a general education classroom. It is a typical kindergarten classroom where the expectations are equal for all the kids. In his class, Jack had a general education teacher and a special education teacher with him all day to help modify or adapt the lessons so that he and other students could be successful. Jack is now in first grade in the same type of classroom with many of the same peers and friends. Jack amazes me every day as he is learning to read, do math, write sentences, and participate with his class. While the development of his knowledge has been so impressive, what is even more incredible is seeing the school, teachers, professionals, and students surrounding him in support.
Currently, I drive Jack to school every day. Every day he is greeted by his favorite gym teacher with a huge smile and an excited hello. Jack jumps out of the car with his arms raised in the air, excited to begin his day. Jack then is met by several older students who have taken a liking to him. One young lady who meets him everyday has a younger sister with Down Syndrome. They naturally have developed a special bond. Jack greets them all by name and everyone shares a high five or a hug. Hand in hand, these 4-5 kids walk with Jack into school. During the day, I frequently receive a text from his teacher. She gets just as excited as I do when Jack figures something out or successfully reads a new book. At dismissal time, I go into the school’s lobby with Jack’s 2 younger sisters. As soon as he walks out the door, the girls shower him in hugs and kisses because they missed their big brother. Jack then says hello to many of the other parents in the lobby who he calls by name. There are more enthusiastic goodbyes from his gym teacher in the bus loop, a fist bump from the principal, and a few goodbyes to classmates before we head home. After school, Jack usually participates in an extracurricular activity, such as, soccer or karate.
While this seems like a pretty typical day for a first grader, to the mom of a child with special needs this is an extraordinary day. Seeing my son be accepted, cared for, befriended, respected, and truly liked by the students and adults that he interacts with every day is incredible. While I would like to take all the credit for pushing Jack, for having high expectations, and for treating him just like my other children, it is truly Jack and the amazing people that surround him that make everyday extraordinary. Jack’s school is amazing. They encompass the meaning behind acceptance and inclusion in everything they do. These students are taught respect and kindness. The teachers are patient, supportive, and have never given up on Jack. The parents of the students are just as kind. Jack is included in birthday parties and treated just like every other peer. And of course, how could I leave out Jack. This perfect situation, this harmony of respect and friendship, is possible because Jack is just an awesome kid. He is one of the happiest, most thoughtful, gracious, kindest, funniest people I know. He is the first person to ask you if you had a good day or tell you your hair looks nice after a hair cut. He will thank me for making him dinner and for helping him brush his teeth. He loves his friends and loves to make them feel special. He likes to keep up with the boys on the playground and is motivated to do anything his friends can do. Overall he is just a cool kid.
I am so blessed to be his mom. I am so proud of not only what he is learning in school, but how he is changing people’s perception of individuals with Down Syndrome without even trying. By just being a friend, a classmate, a peer, a student, he lets his ability shine everyday and the people surrounding him have responded to that in such a positive way. We are so fortunate to live in the times that we live in where inclusion is becoming the norm and parents and students have accepted and embraced that. I feel exceptionally blessed by the specific people that have surrounded our Jack and have helped him become this cool kid that he is. We can’t wait to see what future holds for him. For now this mom will hold back the tears everyday while I witness the little miracles in the bus loop.
Oh the places you will go, Jack!
It was a pleasure to do a special photo session with some local kids who have Down syndrome. I am hoping to spread awareness locally in addition to adding my own flair to the campaign, Changing the Face of Beauty.
Our local news station aired the story on Thursday, April 26th to shine a beautiful light on these adorable kiddos and our photo shoot. You can watch the story here.
BETHANY CHASE PHOTOGRAPHY IS A TRUSTED AND EXPERIENCED PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER IN ROCHESTER NY THAT CREATES CUSTOM NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHY, MATERNITY PHOTOGRAPHY, BABY PHOTOGRAPHY, CHILD PHOTOGRAPHY AND FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHY EXPERIENCES FOR CLIENTS ALL ACROSS THE AREA. BETHANY CHASE PHOTOGRAPHY CURRENTLY SERVES, BUT IS NOT LIMITED TO THE FOLLOWING NEW YORK AREAS: ROCHESTER, WEBSTER, PENFIELD, PITTSFORD, BRIGHTON, PERINTON, FAIRPORT, HENRIETTA, SPENCERPORT, GATES, CHILI, IRONDEQUOIT, GREECE, CHURCHVILLE, MENDON.
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