When the differences start to show

Max is now the grand age of 2.5 and firmly a toddler. No doubt about it, with his own views on what he likes/ dislikes and the ability to reck a living room in 30 seconds.

He is also a toddler with a disability, that as the older he gets, the more it becomes evident of where his challenges lie. This has no more evident than during June which has been jammed back with meetings and appointments for Max.

Firstly the 6 month paediatrician review where his general health is checked. Great news no major issues and a good reminder of how far he has come (born on the 0.2 line and now just under the 25th thanks to his new love of food!)

Next an appointment to commence his 2 week trial of an Bada Hearing band to help him with his moderate hearing loss thanks to glue ear,something people with DS are prone to thanks to their small inner tubes.

Lastly his 6 month TAC meeting (Team around the child) where all the professionals that work with him get together to review Max’s progress over the last 6 months and look ahead to review new emerging themes. Although the meeting itself is positive, just by having it highlights the gaps in Max’s development to his peers, something we are all programmed as humans to be obsessed about.

But what June has also highlighted is quite how loved Max is. From his community paediatrician who comments how cheeky and cute Max is when he is climbing onto her chair (something he’s apparently not suppose to do until he’s walking fully independently, but clearly Max hasn’t read the script) To the Health Visitor who has never met Max (that’s a while other story) but observes how warmly everyone speaks about him and she can’t wait to meet him.

But most importantly is the acceptance among his peers. Who include him in their games, chant his name if he’s come in late to nursery from an appointment and fight over who sits next to him at food time, even though Max has developed an tendency to steal food from their plates (did I say he has a new love of food!)

So although development charts have their roles, what’s most important is that Max is a well loved boy who is finding his own path.

Max loves nursery

Quite simply Max adores nursery. A statement in itself that isn’t rare for a two year old but when we tell people Max attends nursery 4 days a week, people are often intrigued that a child with DS goes to nursery at all.

To be fair Max’s mummy working full time and the reason Max attends nursery is a rarity, with only 3% of working mums with a disabled child doing so (compared to 39% of mums with a non disabled child*) Often suitable childcare being the main issue, along with a lack of flexible employers.

In the UK, it’s illegal for a nursery to prevent a child with a disability in attending, but as two friends have experienced in recent months, nurseries can often find barriers to make it impossible for them to do so.

Max has attended a mainstream nursery since he was 9 months old and has thrived. The nursery he attends have been supportive since the start (which is why Max’s parents settled on this setting) There have of course been challenges for both parties as Max is the only child at the nursery with DS, so they’ve learnt as Max has developed.

Max not having any serious underlying health issues of course helps, although Max’s frequent illnesses has meant each one is normally followed by a period of extra medicine or change of routine that we’ve had to communicate and in trust to nursery to follow.

Max’s nursery in the main have been proactive in adapting activities to suit him. For example as Max was not standing until recently, meant nursery adapted painting so he could sit doing it and giving him the baby menu until last month as he wasn’t ready for the toddler finger food menu before.

Max is support at nursery by all his development support workers such as his Physio and Portage. They regularly visit him at nursery to monitor his progress and give advice to nursery. They all give glowing reports on each visit.

We’ve recently introduced a Communication book to update each other on observations on Max’s development, which is very important when a child’s development is so closely observed. It’s also been useful to find out when Max is pretending he can’t do something but will quite happily do the same activity elsewhere!

Lastly, why do we think Max enjoys nursery? Apart from him ruling it (all the kids know Max and every morning we have lots of kids saying hello) children with DS are known to learn better from their peers. This is certainly the case for Max who is often observed watching his friends and then trying to copy their actions.

Whilst we don’t know what the future holds for Max in terms of education, we know for the moment we have a happy two year old who loves nursery.

* Papworth Trust Disability Facts & Figures 2018