Making Plans

When my daughter Kennedy was born with Down syndrome in 2004, all my expectations, my dreams, for my child were crushed. I was heartbroken thinking about all the plans I had for her that may never come to be. Slowly however, I began to dream new dreams, make new plans, establish new goals. For example, from the moment I enrolled Kennedy into Early Intervention, I had it in my mind that when she turned 3 she would go to the Special Needs Preschool in our school district. It’s where her big brother Kameron went when he turned 3. I knew the teachers and the aides. They already knew and loved Kennedy, and we were all excited about her being there. There was no doubt in my mind that it was where she belonged. It was MY plan. And then… when they held her transition meeting, they told me she tested too high to go into that preschool. “WHAT?!” I exclaimed! “She has DOWN SYNDROME!!” The lady looked me square in the eye and said, “And?” And??? And??? And she has Down syndrome! Don’t you know I’ve been planning for this day since she was born?!

So I cried, because once again the plans I had laid out for my daughter were not happening. Once again I felt my world being tossed and turned as my expectations flew out the window. The lady asked me what I wanted for Kennedy for Kindergarten, I told her firmly that I wanted Kennedy fully included in a typical Kindergarten class. It was my PLAN! “Then WHY,” she asked, “do you want her in a Special Needs Preschool???” Uhhh. Because that is where I planned for her to BE! That is what I’ve been TALKING about for the last year and a half!

I left that meeting upset and full of questions. Friends helped me with “the law”… Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), and they told me I could fight it, if that’s where I really wanted her. But by then a seed of doubt had been planted. Even though it is what I had PLANNED, was it really the best for Kennedy?! My husband and I researched and talked and prayed and finally decided that if she could hack typical preschool, that was where she should go.

Then she got Leukemia. She turned 3 in between chemo treatments. There was no school birthday party, in fact no real birthday party at all since her counts were too low to have friends over, but oh how we celebrated! Once again my plans were tossed to the wind. I didn’t think much about school for the next several months. We were more wrapped up in Kennedy’s battle through cancer. I did, however, have her on a waiting list for a preschool.

When Kennedy finally finished chemo, and her counts recovered some, her doctors cleared her to go to school. I felt a mixture of excitement, fear and pride as I dropped her off that first day. She walked right in the door, sat down for circle time with the other kids and listened to the story being read. I slipped out the door as tears streamed down my cheeks and I asked forgiveness for always relying on my plans.

Kennedy thrived in that preschool class. Her teacher mentioned to me once that she wasn’t sure if Kennedy would fit in, if she would know what to do with Kennedy, if the other kids would accept her, but she went on to say that Kennedy ruled that class. The other kids followed Kennedy and did what she wanted to do. And they loved her. We were heartbroken when Kennedy had to quit school before her spine surgery in Summer 2008, but  she was able to go back to the same school for a few months of pre-k after she healed. And she did great there too. Right now Kennedy is about a month into Kindergarten. She is in a typical Kindergarten class with supports in place, should she need them. She loves Kindergarten and all that it entails. And me? I know better now than to make plans… the Lord has plans of His own for Kennedy’s life. I’m just along for the ride.


This is Renee’s first post at 5M4SN, and she is excited to join the team! She is mom to four beautiful kids, including Kennedy who has Down syndrome. She and her husband Frank are also in the process of their first adoption. You can find Renee at Life With My Special Ks and Bringing Kellsey Home. You can also meet Kennedy and her family on TLC this Wednesday, September 16 at 9/8 Central on Truth Be Told: I Have A Child With Special Needs.

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